Protests are growing against the state's biggest outdoors show. Hundreds of vendors have backed out of Harrisburg's Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show over a controversial decision to ban military-style weapons this year. The show can attract close to 200 thousand visitors.
Maureen Gyory is one of them. She spent Wednesday afternoon catching up on target practice at The Firing Line in Whitehall.
"I'm here to practice," she said. "You have practice often."
Gyory also owns an AR-15, the same high-powered rifle used in last month's Connecticut school shooting massacre. She insists the weapons themselves -- and legal owners -- are not the problem.
"I am not a terrorist," she said. "I am not anyone that someone else has to fear."
Gyrory is one of many gun owners boycotting the massive ESOS over the new ban, which also includes high-ammunition magazines. In a statement, show promoter Reed Exhibitions said: "Clearly, we strongly support the Second Amendment … However, this year we have made the decision not to include certain products that in the current climate may attract negative attention and possibly disrupt the broader positive experience of our guests."
Some gun owners understand the show's position.
"I see both sides of the coin," said James Dotterer of Catasauqua. "Being a gun owner, I'm going to lean more toward that side of the coin."
Gun owners aren't the only ones taking aim at this show though. So too are hundreds of vendors who have now backed out. They include Cabela's Superstore and the NRA. Protesters claim nearly 250 vendors are now boycotting. More than 800 users have "liked" a protest page on Facebook.
John Annoni runs Allentown's Camp Compass, which teaches disadvantaged kids outdoor activities and shooting skills. He decided to back out of the Eastern Sports show.
"The timing -- two weeks before, to come out with it -- is kind of a blindside," he said.
The Lehigh Valley Sportsman Show's organizer said he has no plans for a ban here. Because of the boycott, he may now experience a bump in business.
"I'm not really looking for that," said Dennis Brozey with PBM Productions, which puts on the event in March. "It would be nice."
In this gun control debate, weapons owners are clearly taking aim.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley 69 News