Everywhere in The Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, it is clear that the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) SHOT Show is not a political event. The 50,000-plus attendees, including employees from just about every gun and firearm-related company there is, are here to buy and sell products for markets in the U.S. and around the world.
The SHOT Show is a trade show, not a consumer show. It is the 46th annual gathering of those in the gun business. They are here in Nevada to show off new products and to further business relationships—some, no doubt, slip down the miles of aisles in the crowded show to see what innovations their competitors are presenting. They are, in sum, an industry competing to please consumers, America’s 100-million-plus gun owners, countless millions more of future gun owners, as well as gun owners and future gun owners around the world, police departments, and so on.
When you speak to company representatives at this show, as I have been doing for days now, they are excited about new gun designs and line extensions—Smith & Wesson is excited about its new Model 1854 lever-action rifles and Colt is excited about its a blued version of its Python. They don’t, at first at least, talk politics, even though the Biden administration wants to run them out of business.
But then, always and often near the end of any discussion, they lean in to say what a critical election year this is for our freedom, and that we need a strong NRA now more than ever. They all make the point that without a robust NRA membership, then all the companies serving America’s gun owners would be in trouble. Many also add that they advertise in the NRA’s magazines not just to directly reach so many millions of passionate freedom lovers, but also to support this civil-liberties association and all it does in the many fights to retain and, where necessary, to win back our right to keep and bear arms.
They then lean back out and we talk shooting, hunting, and about specific innovations they’re bringing to the marketplace. And that’s refreshing, as this, after all, is America’s vast, lawful, and positive gun culture. It is a big, real and critical. The health of this industry is important if we are to remain free citizens in a constitutional republic. And, by simply being so big and embracing, this industry, and all the citizens who practice this right, are together a cultural counterweight to the many attacks on this individual right now coming from the Biden administration.
That’s not a small point. This show represents a culture of freedom. Gun ownership is empowering. It offers individuals the chance to protect themselves should someone with evil intentions come their way. You can feel this and see it in the way attendees at the SHOT Show walk and talk, and you can see it in their expressions when they check out new gun models and more.
Self-defense is at the core of this right, but it is also difficult for politicians with authoritarian ambitions to ban something that is empowering, exciting, and fundamental to our freedom.
All that said, and because company representatives understandably don’t themselves want to become political spokespeople (they, for example, support the NRA, and all the expertise employed there, to fight these battles on behalf of their customers), I got a few minutes with Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the NSSF.
As Keane is often involved in legal responses to attacks on this industry, I asked what it is like to represent an industry that President Joe Biden (D) literally called “the enemy.”
“Yes,” said Keane, “in 2020, President Biden kicked off his bid for the White House by calling firearm manufacturers ‘the enemy.’ This time around, he’s doubling down his anti-gun rhetoric. Make no mistake, President Biden is coming for your guns. He’s coming for your freedoms, and he’s willing to trample on the U.S. Constitution to do it.
“It would be easy to dismiss this as hyperbolic campaign trail rhetoric, except President Biden is already doing it. His first term showed his open contempt for the firearm industry and the constitutionally protected rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes. He instituted a zero-tolerance policy for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that saw closed firearm retailer inspections reopened, and licenses and livelihoods revoked and shuttered. He has issued unconstitutional executive orders that overreach by creating criminal law through dubious final rules. He has lied to the American people repeatedly about the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. He has banned gun exports for political reasons. This is a critical time for Americans to come together and stop these attacks on our constitutional rights.”
Meanwhile, at the NRA booth on the SHOT Show floor, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) showed up to express her support, as have other governors and state attorneys general. Indeed, there has been a steady flow of company CEOs, outdoor personalities, competitive shooters, and so many more showing to express their support for our freedom.
The American culture erected on the foundation of this individual right is big, growing, and on display at the SHOT Show. Next up, is the NRA Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pa., from February 3-11.