Last week, I attended the largest gun and outdoors show in the world; the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show. The annual Las Vegas event is so huge that only those who work in the industry are allowed to attend. The show doesn't receive much mainstream news coverage because the left-wing media doesn't want the public to know how many patriotic Americans are in the gun industry. Attendance increases every year, with 67,000 attending this year. There were 1,600 exhibitors, and over 400 companies were waitlisted.
Conservatives have been losing ground in virtually every area in politics except the Second Amendment. Increasing violence and an expanding, more intrusive government have made Americans concerned about their safety. The Democrats' policies and values have resulted in generations of kids with behavioral problems, leading to more criminals as the kids become adults. The Obama administration's spying under the NSA, targeting of the Tea Party using the IRS and apparent stockpiling of ammunition have made more Americans afraid of their government.
Despite the tension between law-abiding Americans and our current government, law enforcement has a friendly and huge presence at SHOT Show, spanning hundreds of booths. While big city “desk chiefs” may not have a good relationship with the gun industry, since they are generally appointees of liberal Democratic mayors, virtually everyone else in law enforcement does. The only evidence of friction observed at SHOT Show took place at the BATF booth. A wisecracking attendee placed a Molon Labe bumper sticker over the BATF's sign. Molon Labe means “come and take,” allegedly said by King Leonidas I at the Battle of Thermopylae in response to the Persian army's demand that the Spartans turn over their weapons.
A few Hollywood stars dared to attend who were not afraid to be seen at a gun show. Actor Joe Mantegna and country music star Louise Mandrell dropped by for interviews at the booth for my magazine, Western Shooting Journal. Mantegna enjoys shotguns and sporting clays, and Mandrell runs a firearms company with her nephew. Attendees waited in line for over four hours to meet rock star Ted Nugent and actor R. Lee Ermey, known as The Gunny. Actor Michael Rooker from The Walking Dead and Cliffhanger calls himself an “avid shooter” and tweeted about SHOT Show while attending. The media and those with connections were able to catch the stars around the convention without waiting in line. The media was also invited to a nearby range to shoot hundreds of the newest guns on display for free.
Reality stars like the Duck Dynasty clan are not as fearful of being associated with the gun industry, since they are under less pressure from anti-gun Hollywood than traditional stars. Jesse James of West Coast Choppers was spotted, and the actors from Gold Rush made guest appearances at booths. There were also plenty of award-winning competitive shooters, decorated veterans and politicians, including Texas Governor Rick Perry. Magicians Penn & Teller provided entertainment, which featured a segment shooting .357 magnum guns at each other.
The left-leaning media will never reveal how polite the attendees were. Not only was everyone I encountered pleasant to deal with, but I never felt like any of my equipment was in danger of being stolen. The gun industry is the last great unshrinking bastion of American conservatism and good values.
The divided GOP should look to the gun industry for insights on how to make progress on conservative issues. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which puts on SHOT Show, the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America and the Second Amendment Foundation have been extremely effective at influencing the public and lawmakers in recent years. These organizations work together, not against each other. Giving the media red carpet treatment at SHOT Show was a clever maneuver; there was virtually no negative news coverage of SHOT Show. The question is, do we want Wayne LaPierre for RNC chair or for president?