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NRA brings back nation's largest outdoor show killed by AR-15 gun ban

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Gun Control,National Rifle Association,Newtown,Pennsylvania

The nation's biggest outdoors show, cancelled last year after vendors and sponsors protested a ban on AR-15 rifles following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, is being revived by the NRA, which is promising to give the popular rifle its place at the event opening Saturday in Harrisburg, Pa.

“This year's show will expand the presence of firearms, including ‘modern sporting rifles,' ” meaning semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 and others based on the design, said the National Rifle Association.

The NRA took control of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show after an international promoter was forced to cancel last year’s weeklong event when sponsors, vendors and supporters orchestrated a boycott because “modern sporting rifles” were abruptly banned from displays.

A grassroots protest began when Reed Exhibitions banned the rifle in an apparent bid to show support for victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting. A Bushmaster AR-15 was among the weapons used in the school slayings, according to police. President Obama and Democrats failed to revive the "assault weapons ban" to kill sales of the rifle.

When the NRA eventually withdrew its sponsorship, Reed Exhibitions killed the show that draws 200,000 a year. The NRA has restored it, renamed it the “Great American Outdoor Show,” and expanded it to include more events for children and women.

The show, held at Harrisburg's sprawling Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex, has also been restructured to include a hall set aside just for guns and other shooting sports goods, said an NRA spokesman. It will include makers of the AR-15, the nation's most popular weapon, including Bushmaster, Smith & Wesson, and Colt.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.