Biggest Gun Show, Down the Road from Where 58 People were Killed in Las Vegas
In January the industry is holded its biggest gun annual trade show just down the road from the site where a gunman slaughtered 58 concert-goers outside his high-rise Las Vegas hotel room in October.
The 2018 National Shooting Sports Foundation's (NSSF) Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show is being held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, a nine-minute drive away from the Mandalay Bay resort, from which Stephen Paddock, that lost at the real money casino fired thousands of rounds from assault-style weapons into a crowd of 22,000 attending a country music concert.
The show's location and timing – less than four months after Stephen Paddock's murderous attack – have heightened awareness of the event.
The SHOT Show has been held for 40 years, half that time in Las Vegas, and this year's gathering was scheduled well before the bloodshed last autumn. It has some 13 miles of aisles featuring products from more than 1,700 companies.
The general public is not allowed to roam the aisles; the only people who can attend are those with direct ties to the industry: manufacturers and dealers of firearms or associated products. Although a few reporters from general-interest news organisations attended in recent years, NSSF this year restricted access to about 2,500 journalists from trade publications and media.
Ethan Miller from Getty Images was one of the lucky photographers authorised to attend the show. His photos show the extraordinary fire power on display.
When the SHOT Show was launched, its emphasis was on hunting and the outdoors. Over the decades, it has evolved and grown and now has huge sections devoted to the law enforcement and military community. No sales are allowed at the show, firing pins are removed from all guns on display, and there is no live ammunition.
There are so many companies that want to exhibit, there isn't enough space. The waiting list is several hundred names long.
One company not among the exhibitors this year is Slide Fire, the leading manufacturer of bump stocks, a once-obscure product that attracted intense attention in the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. The Texas-based company hasn't said why it's not on the roster of more than 1,700 exhibitors, although it was last year. It didn't return AP's messages seeking comment. The company also isn't on the list of those attending this year's National Rifle Association annual meeting or other prominent gun trade shows.
In the aftermath of the Las Vegas massacre, Slide Fire had so much trouble keeping up with demand it temporarily stopped taking orders for the product. It has since resumed.
"From purely a public relations standpoint, it wouldn't be a surprise at all if bump stocks just sort of disappeared this year," said Robert Spitzer, chairman of political science at the State University of New York at Cortland and an expert on firearms and the Second Amendment. "That's a PR no-brainer."
Still, the convention floor has plenty of other devices that gun-control advocates have taken aim at in recent years: accessories that make it easier to carry a firearm, shoot it or reduce the noise it makes. On the list of products they oppose are "trigger cranks," which, like bump stocks, make it easier to fire a long gun rapidly, and "assault pistols," which look remarkably like short-barreled AR- and AK-style firearms but skirt certain federal restrictions because they aren't designed to be shot from the shoulder.
"For a person from the general public, I think the thing that would startle them the most about the SHOT Show ... is just the sheer scope and the vastness of this show," said David Chipman, a former agent with the federal agency that regulates firearms and now a senior policy adviser with the gun safety organisation founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was gravely wounded in a shooting in 2012.
Gun control advocates pointed to the irony of the location and planed a protest to renew calls for tighter gun sale regulations. "We're trying to show the connection between the industry that makes all the money and the damage that their products cause," Lee Goodman, a spokesman for Chicago-based Peaceful Communities, told the Associated Press. His organisation advocates for rewriting the constitutional Second Amendment right to own guns.
"The gun industry has not been responsible and responsive to addressing the gun violence issue in America," said Po Murray, chairwoman of the Newtown Action Alliance, in the Connecticut town where 20 children and six educators died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012.
Kristin Brown, co-president of the Brady Campaign and Centre to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, DC, accused events like the SHOT show of adding to the national problem of weapons and violence. "We're allowing it to exist," Brown said, "and we're doing almost nothing to address the loopholes in the law that allow private sales to happen at gun shows and over the internet." Brown also called donation-based compensation for the hundreds of Las Vegas shooting dead and injured inadequate casino gambler. "We do almost nothing for victims, whose only fault in this case was to attend a concert," she said.