“No, we won’t Tase you,” the company rep informed, dashing my hopes for a Rick Sanchez moment. “We’re not doing that here, but at CES we had people lined up all day.” So what’s it feel like? “Worst few minutes of my life—both times.” The Taser booth was among the most popular at last week’s 16,000-vendor firearms trade show at Sands Expo, but the free-flowing beer probably had something to do with it.
After all, this convention was really about weapons of the more lethal variety—namely guns, lots of ’em. There were Glock semi-automatic pistols, gangster-style snub-nosed revolvers and miles of barely distinguishable rifles. And just like at the Consumer Electronics Show, gunmakers used the occasion to flaunt the latest in industry technology—a Beretta shotgun, for example, with a kind of dashboard that records rounds fired and the barrel’s ambient temperature. The star of the show was a German-engineered machine gun that launches 350 grenades a minute. “Everybody needs one of these,” a smiling passerby declared.
With 57,390 attendees in four days, the convention had star power—actor Erik Estrada, wrestler Shawn Michaels and a bevy of Outdoor Network personalities I didn’t recognize—as well as comic relief. The Wilderness Dreams booth hawked camouflage lingerie for the sexy deer hunter in your life, while Gun Totin’ Mamas promoted a line of fashionable concealed-carry handbags (free replacement when fired through to stop an attack).
Absent from the event was any kind of self-consciousness about staging the nation’s largest gun industry convention two weeks after the Tucson shootings. “Politicians prefer unarmed subjects” was the unfortunate message on one bumper sticker for sale. Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, summed up the crowd’s sentiments when he said, “If he hadn’t used a gun, he would have used something else.”