Last updated: February 20. 2013 3:49AM - 256 Views

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Reed Exhibitions didn't need to protect us.


That's what they tried to do when organizers of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg – the largest hunting and fishing show in the country, decided to ban tactical rifles from the event.


A statement that appeared on the show's website shortly after the Jan. 15 decision said the move was made because certain products – such as tactical rifles or assault rifles or modern sporting arms – whatever you want to call them, would attract negative attention and distract from the hunting and fishing focus of the show.


While it's nice that Reed Exhibitions wanted to make sure I wasn't distracted by the presence of tactical rifles at the show, it really wasn't necessary.


I, and everyone else that planned to attend the show, are more than capable of avoiding that distraction ourselves by simply walking past those booths where such products were displayed.


With more than 1,000 exhibitors at the show, I'm obviously not interested in every booth I pass. So what do I do? Simply walk on by.


Apparently that approach isn't good enough for Reed Exhibitions. Perhaps they felt that chance of attendees being distracted was just too great, which is why they banned the firearms from the show.


Ludicrous.


Maybe.


Perhaps Reed Exhibitions had the right approach, because shortly after they announced the ban it caused others to follow suit by banning their sponsorships of the show.


Cabelas was the first to institute a ban. On Jan. 20 they pulled out as one of the show's signature sponsors.


Days later more organizations, businesses and celebrities also announced they were banning themselves from the show. According to some estimates, more than 300 vendors and exhibitors pulled out of the show prior to Reed Exhibitions decision on Thursday to postpone the event.


As I watched the list of boycotting groups grow each day, I knew the show was in trouble. Not only were they losing prime financial backers, but the 50-year-old show also lost groups who held events that became strong traditions.


The National Wild Turkey Federation is a good example. They pulled out on Tuesday, not only canceling their booth space but their highly popular turkey calling contest as well.


It's funny the way things worked out. Reed Exhibitions banned tactical rifles from the show – a decision that really affected only five of the 1,200 exhibitors, and days later more than 300 vendors banned the show.


According to a statement issued by Reed Exhibitions on Thursday, the tactical rifle ban directly affected a small percentage of more than 1,000 exhibits showcasing products and services for those interested in hunting and fishing.


Was implementing a ban that impacted only a few exhibitors really worth it, now that the show has been sacrificed as a result?


If the percentage of exhibitors that had tactical rifles was so small, chances are the issue wouldn't have been a distraction anyway.


Tactical rifles weren't the only thing banned in the end.


Banned was the projected $44 million the show generated for the Harrisburg region.


Banned was the income counted upon by hundreds of businesses and outfitters that planned to attend the show.


And banned was the opportunity for hunters, anglers and all other outdoor enthusiasts to spend a day at the country's largest show designed just for them.


Now, nobody has to worry about getting distracted.

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