Las Vegas SHOT Show: Guns, gear and controversy

Hundreds of outdoor journalists are covering the 2018 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. (Dave Workman)

UPDATED: The 40th annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show opened for a four-day run Tuesday morning in Las Vegas, and almost out of the gate there was a tinge of controversy, thanks to a Kentucky school shooting and an Associated Press story that appeared in several newspapers.

Maybe it was the headline: “Gun industry gathers just a few miles from mass shooting.”

The report lamented, “What exactly will be among the thousands of products crammed into the exhibition spaces at the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s SHOT Show convention, running Tuesday through Friday, will be a bit of a mystery, shielded from the public and, this year, members of the general-interest media.”

For the record, the SHOT Show has never been open to the public in its 40 years, and the “general-interest media,” — which is apparently savvy enough to not call itself the “mainstream press” in this case — knows it. And the “general-interest media” has rarely covered the event.

However, according to NSSF’s Mike Bazinet, the place is full of journalists, an estimated 2,500 of them. These are outdoor media professionals registered for this week’s event, a fact buried 13 paragraphs into the story. During the SHOT Show, at any time during the day it is not unusual to find well over 100 of these journalists in the Press Room, hammering out stories for their readers.

Hundreds of outdoor media professionals are covering the show. (Dave Workman)

Whatever else those people may be, they are members of the working press, with an emphasis on “work.” Freelance writers or those who write for a single publication are no less devoted to their craft than a reporter whose beat may be education, local government or transportation.

As for products being shielded, that’s what the legions of outdoor reporters, photographers and videographers are doing here. They are covering this event as other industry journalists might cover an electronics show or a new car show.

This year’s show appears busy, and several industry veterans have suggested that one year into the Trump administration, with the threat of new restrictive federal gun laws vastly reduced, gun and accessory makers are “adjusting” to a more laid back atmosphere.

This year, consumers aren’t scrambling to buy the latest black gun or gadget. There will be more time for research and development, and people who bought guns at a feverish pace during the last administration now have time to enjoy shooting them.

A school shooting in Kentucky morning that left two dead and more than a dozen others injured, has not gone unnoticed. However, the shooter has been identified as a 15-year-old suspect who used a handgun that no existing state law allowed him to legally carry concealed, onto a public school grounds, anywhere in the United States.

Contrary to how the gun industry is constantly portrayed by the gun prohibition lobby and perhaps too many “general-interest columnists,” nobody offering products here at the Sands Expo Center has the slightest inclination to put guns into the wrong hands.

True enough, the SHOT Show is being held in Las Vegas, where it has been for the past several years. The city was the scene of the horrible mass shooting last Oct. 1. Nobody here is avoiding that. By the same proverbial token, however, nobody at this gargantuan trade show, expected to draw some 60,000 people, was even remotely responsible.

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