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Newtown-Based Gun Industry Trade Association Begins Celebration of Guns This Week in Vegas

01/14/2013 10:36 am ET | Updated Mar 16, 2013

While America continues to grieve over the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School and begins looking for answers, for Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the gun industry's multi-million dollar trade association, it's back to business as usual.

Faced, in its own hometown, with the real-world horror that can be inflicted with the military-style weapons it helps market and has tried to euphemistically "rebrand" as "modern sporting rifles," NSSF took a page out of the National Rifle Association's post-tragedy playbook. It issued a short notice of sympathy and then refused to talk to the press, hoping, as has happened all too many times before, that public anguish and anger would fade as time passed.

But NSSF has kept busy during this self-imposed period of silence, busy planning its annual celebration of guns in Las Vegas, Nevada: The SHOT (Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade) Show. Promoted as "The Event That Keeps on Giving" that's "Too Good to Miss," profits from the show help fund NSSF's legislative activities on Capitol Hill and in states across the nation as well as its marketing efforts on behalf of the firearms industry. The show begins tomorrow and runs through Friday.

Faced with the horrifying contrast between NSSF's cheery promotional efforts for all manner of firearms in general and military-bred assault rifles like the AR-15 in particular (see this NSSF promotional video for "modern sporting rifles" for a decisively jaw-dropping example) and the inevitable tragedies that result from the civilian sale of these weapons, NSSF has decided to shut out the mainstream press from the SHOT Show this year. According to NSSF's website, credentials to the show -- which is closed to the general public -- will not be issued to news media in the immediate period leading up to it. The site states, "Online media registration for the 2013 SHOT Show is closed. Media credentials will not be issued through the mail or on-site during the event."

And while NSSF has refused to respond to media requests following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, on January 7 its communications staff issued a discordantly cheery notice on the SHOT Show blog offering "10 Tips for a Better SHOT Show," which opened with, "Wear comfortable shoes. The SHOT Show is huge! Last year's show encompassed 1,600 vendors exhibiting in 630,000 square feet. Comfortable shoes will give you a chance to see all the show has to offer."

Among the vendors listed on NSSF's website as participating in the show are a wide range of assault rifle manufacturers, including Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the Newtown shooting (Exhibition Space 14229). In a video from the 2012 SHOT Show, Bushmaster enthusiastically talked about its line of assault rifles, including the "Dissipator." (Following the Newtown school shooting, Cerberus Capital Management announced that it would sell Freedom Group, the gun industry conglomerate of which Bushmaster is a member.) According to the website, Bushmaster is right next to Smith & Wesson (Exhibition Space 13731), manufacturer of the M&P15 assault rifle used in the July 20, 2012 Aurora, CO, movie theater shooting that left 12 dead and 58 wounded, and just across the aisle from the National Rifle Association (Exhibition Space 14540), which receives tens of millions of dollars in funding from the gun industry and has already begin lobbying efforts against proposed federal legislation that would help prevent mass shootings but might negatively impact the industry, such as a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. (See the July 2011 Violence Policy Center study, Blood Money: How the Gun Industry Bankrolls the NRA. )

By shutting out the mainstream news media and doing its best to limit SHOT Show access to industry journalists, NSSF hopes that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.