THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF CONVENTION SHOW CARRY
Are guns allowed? That is usually the first question asked when attending a large gathering of gun enthusiasts in a public setting. You would think that the question is a “no-brainer,” but, in many cases, you would be wrong.
There are a couple of large gun industry events I like to attend. The policies of two of the biggest reflect a stark difference regarding whether or not attendees are allowed to carry a gun at the event for self-defense. There are many factors that come into play, not the least of which is the level of responsibility the event host is
willing to accept. Other factors, such as what the owner of the venue allows, what the local laws allow and what type of permit the gun owner has, all play a role.
IRONY IN THE GUN INDUSTRY
During the 2018 Las Vegas SHOT Show, hosted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), no loaded firearms owned by private citizens were allowed inside the convention center. Much of this policy has to do with the venue management rather than the NSSF: The Sands Expo Convention Center (SECC) policy is that neither personal firearms nor ammunition is allowed:
“Only firearms on display by exhibitors, and with firing pins removed (and have been inspected by SHOT Show Safety Advisors), shall be permitted on the show floor.”
This means that regardless of whether or not you had a concealedcarry permit, and you also had reciprocity with Nevada, you could not carry inside the convention enter.
SUPPORT FOR THE SECOND AMENDMENT
In contrast, the NRA annual meetings (NRAAM), encourage members to exercise their rights under the Second Amendment. Even during the 2017 NRAAM, held in Atlanta, the NRA posted the following:
“During the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits, lawfully carried firearms will be permitted in the Georgia World Congress Center and the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center in accordance with Georgia law. However, firearms are not allowed in the remainder of the CNN Center, including the food court and shops. When carrying your firearm, remember to follow all federal, state and local laws.”
So, as you can see, here are very different takes by two of the industry giants concerning firearms-carry at their event venues. Even in the NRA’s case, you must still be legally able to carry a firearm at its event. In the case of the NRA convention, if your state doesn’t have reciprocity with the state in which the event is held, you are forbidden from carrying your firearm. For the SHOT Show, I imagine it has to do with state laws about carrying
firearms in casinos, as opposed to thinking there will be a big shootout at the show.
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE
Of course, there are some exceptions. During the run up to the 2016 elections, then-candidate Trump spoke at the NRAAM in Louisville. Guns were not allowed to be carried in the area where he was speaking. I have no complaint about that and don’t feel that a Secret Service agent’s job needs to be harder than it already is.
EMPTY YOUR POCKETS, PLEASE
While I am sure there is plenty of security in and around these events, it is not overt—and almost unnoticeable. I’ve seen
more-overt security at my local gun show, where it mimics the TSA routine when boarding a flight: full-up metal detector, all belongings removed from pockets, and bags get the once-over. There is none of that at SHOT or NRAAM.
With these two examples in mind, what can you do in case you aren’t allowed to carry a firearm for self-defense?
My number-one suggestion is that when traveling to and from the convention building, avoid areas that are questionable in nature. There is plenty to do in Las Vegas without venturing into the seedier areas. In Nevada, carrying in bars is OK—as long as you follow local laws. This year, for the NRAAM, Texas does not allow that.
KNOW THE LAW
I always tell students and others that the most important thing about carrying a firearm is to know the law. The easiest way to get yourself in trouble is to violate one of the local statutes by assuming that all state laws are the same.
DON’T GO UNARMED!
Now, you might be asking yourself, Should I go disarmed? My answer is, Not completely. There is a multitude of things besides a firearm you can carry for self-defense.
The first would be a good folding knife—one strong enough that it won’t break off in the event you strike bone or something else hard. I have also begun carrying a tactical pen. Manufacturers now even make them so they don’t have the “extreme” tactical look to them.
Be careful if you are using a Taser or pepper spray; both must still be used in accordance with local laws. And whatever you do, do not have your pepper spray in your carry-on. It can result in a hefty fine. In addition, not all “gun-free zone” signs are noticeable. Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean you’re excused.
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
There are plenty of issues to think about when traveling with weapons of any type to venues such at SHOT, NRAAM or other large, convention-style shows. If you are flying, make sure to check with your airline for rules regarding any weapons you’re planning to travel with. The same goes for buses and trains. In addition, be sure to plan ahead and look on the event website for guidance.
Whatever you decide, be responsible. A single form of defense should never be your only plan. The best bet is avoidance. But when that fails, you’d better have a backup plan! GW
One concern when carrying concealed in a crowd such as this is the constant bumping into other people. It’s best to carry as tightly to the body as possible, such as inside-thewaistband carry.
Every year, tens of thousands of gun industry types converge upon Las Vegas for the SHOT Show. Despite the “anything goes” atmosphere of Vegas, one thing that doesn’t “go” is firearms carried inside on the convention floor.
Alternatives to firearms and knives include items such as these (starting at the top left): Böker Plus Urban Survival L.E., tactical pens (Bear Edge, Fenix and Böker Plus) and flashlights with a striking bezel, such the Surefire E2D Executive Defender....