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Let’s just say if you figured to get out in the woods in your Show is well-heeled and overwhelmingly white. It was exceedingly rare to see African Americans, other than convention center or county employees, at the event. The mother of all American gun shows, the SHOT show presents a hunting and outdoor equipment cornucopia that runs nearly a mile down the length of the convention center. That becomes about six miles if you walk through all the mazes of aisles. A reporter for the Times-Picayune says it took him 14 hours to visit each of the displays. It took me even longer, but I’m easily distracted. Give it a name and it’s there. Popular hunter favorites such as Remington, Winchester, Beretta, Mossberg, and Browning pull you into their elaborate compounds, where you can browse for hours, checking out the venison-and-potatoes breed like Remington’s Model 700 Titanium .30-06, Browning’s Gold 20-gauge Deer Hunter, or one that catches me by surpriseWinchester’s new Model 9410 lever action, which looks a lot like a lever action .30-.30, but is really a .410 shotgun. And then there are the high-end manufacturers such as Weatherby, Mannlicher, and Perazzi, which feature paired shotguns, safari rifles, and trophy-case high calibers whose precision tooling, gold inlays, and elegant, hand-carved stocks put price tags well into the seven figures. You’ll want to look good, of course. Brown and Beretta, Glock and other big names aren’t just selling the bang these days, but the look to go with it. Let’s just say if you figured to get out in the woods in your Sears plaids and Dickey’s khakis you’re going to feel very underdressed this year. Nor do you need to get all spartan about the outdoors. Every need is being anticipated, even those you may not think you have. “Cajun” flavored marinade injection is available for your roast beast, and there’s in-the-bag fast-cook chow for when you can’t light a fire. I swirl through a consumer sea of duck calls, turkey calls, dog whistles, deer feed, camouflage paint, dog training seminars, impressive new trigger locks, Internet providers which give $1 of your monthly fee to the NRA, ergonomic skinning axes, and even knives that are actually knives. At the booths for Nikon, Bausch & Lomb, and Zeiss, to name but a few, I can play around with high-tech binoculars and tripod-mounted scopesmore and more of which seem to be developed for the huge birdwatching market. Bowhunters have plenty to look forward to as well, from better camouflage to tougher points and shafts and bows so precisely engineered, cantilevered, and counterweighted that you may need an advanced degree just to aim one. As with all industry previews, what’s here filters out during the year to outlets throughout the country, not to say the world. I’m lost amid thousands of retailers, chain buyers police and military representatives such as the two uniformed Brazilian cops next to me looking over an Armalite display of handguns and assault rifles. Nearly 2,000 of the 25,291 visitors come from 65 foreign countries. One of them, Barbel Ehret, is part of a six-person contingent sent by the German manufacturer Anschutz, which ponied up $6,000 for the booth space, $800 for each person’s airfare, and about $100 a day each for hotel rooms. “It’s definitely worth it,” she says. “We meet lots of people and do many presentations… It’s good to meet the others here and see what they are showing.” Bill Pate, of Bill’s Gun Trader gun shop in Lufkin, Texas, didn’t come from so far away, but he has similar motives. He and partners Joe Marsh and Allen Repp constitute one of the show’s prime geographical audiences: the Lone Star state, whose nearly 5,000 licensed dealers make it the nation’s leader, followed by California with just over 3,500. Given the dedication and enthusiasm of exhibitors and visitors, you’d think the NSSF would be happy as a hunter with an 8-point buck. Not so. Don Gobel, retiring president of Browning, and chair of the all-white, all-male NSSF Board of Governors, set the tone on the show’s opening night. Speaking at a special state-of-the-industry public meeting, he came on like Cassandra, describing the gun industry as “under attack like never before.” A big slide screen to one side of the dais flashed a picture of George W. Bush, and Gobel led the attendees, including Wayne LaPierre, of the National Rifle Association, sitting in the front row, in sustained applause. Gobel congratulated the NSSF for its $6 million get-out-the-vote campaign, which he said tipped the electoral scales in marginal states. Every subsequent speaker found room to attack former President Clinton, Mayor Morial, the misguided public, and those ever-culpable media distortions. What the NSSF mostly may be worried about, though, is demographics, not rhetoric from liberals, bunny-huggers, and urban constituencies. Overall gun industry sales are grow inghunting and shooting sports combined claim an impres sive $75 billion in economic impactbut the future is not considered especially healthy. The average income of the continued on page 17 4/27101 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11