LAS VEGAS -- The 35th annual SHOT show, billed as the largest trade show for the shooting sports, hunting and law enforcement industries, will be held Tuesday through Friday at the Sands Expo & Convention Center.
The SHOT show, which stands for the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show has been owned by the National Shooting Sports Foundation since the inaugural convention was held in St. Louis in 1979.
Eight cities have hosted the show but none have been more successful than Las Vegas, which had its first SHOT experience in 1988 when 19,800 were in attendance. Since then the show returned to Las Vegas in 1990, 1995, 1997-98, 2000, 2002, 2004-06, 2008, and 2010-12.
Last year's show drew a record 61,017 attendees, including 36,383 buyers and 2,466 media representatives. Attendees came from all 50 states and 100 countries. The 1,600 exhibitors helped fill 630,000 square feet of convention space.
"For the last several years nearly 80 percent of our attendees prefer Las Vegas and that's where we will be through 2015," foundation senior vice president Chris Dolnack wrote on the SHOT show blog.
The Las Vegas show received a black eye in January 2010 when the FBI arrested 21 attendees in what was described as the Justice Department's largest prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. All of the individuals were arrested off-site from the show at an undisclosed valley location in what was dubbed Operation Landslide. They and a 22nd individual arrested in Miami were all employed by military or law enforcement products companies but none were Nevadans.
The indicted defendants were alleged to have agreed to pay a 20 percent commission to a sales agent they believed represented the minister of defense of the African nation Gabon to win part of a $15 million contract to equip that country's presidential guard. It turned out to be an FBI sting operation involving an undercover FBI agent.
"It just happened that we had the opportunity to bring them all together at one time at one place," Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI's criminal division said at the time.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer added: "As one person said in my office, this is one case where what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas."
But the government failed to gain convictions in two cases related to Operation Landslide, so the Justice Department decided in February 2012 to dismiss the indictments involving the remaining defendants.
That decision followed unwanted publicity, courtesy of the Washington Post, which reported that text messages between FBI agents and government informant Richard Bistrong covered subjects such as sex and prostitutes. The text messages, according to the newspaper, were used in court by defense attorneys to attack the credibility of agents working on the case.
The SHOT show moved forward under the guidance of the foundation, whose 7,000-plus membership includes manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers.
The foundation opposes certain ballistics identification initiatives supported by law enforcement agencies, including firearms microstamping and ballistics imaging. Those who oppose such ballistics identification say that criminals could taint crime scenes or that police could be led to the wrong individual if the gun used was stolen. The foundation also opposes limitations or outright bans against the use of traditional ammunition.
"One visible result of (the foundation's) efforts this year was New York's deactivation of its costly ballistics imaging program, which never contributed to the solving of even one crime," Dolnack wrote on his blog.
Dolnack also wrote about foundation efforts to help pass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in 2005 that preempted "the frivolous lawsuits that nearly crippled" the firearms industry. The law prevents the firearms industry from being held accountable for criminal actions.
"The law allows the manufacturing industry to concentrate its resources on constructive research and development, rather than on unwarranted legal defense," Dolnack wrote.
The foundation donated $2,500 to Republican Sen. Dean Heller's successful re-election campaign in 2012 and $1,000 to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's winning re-election bid in 2010.
The foundation's headquarters at 11 Mile Hill Road in Newtown, Conn., happens to be only three miles away from Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of the Dec. 14 shooting massacre that left 20 children and six adult staff members dead. Shooter Adam Peter Lanza, who used an assault weapon, also killed his mother before committing suicide.
"We at the National Shooting Sports Foundation have been deeply shaken and saddened by the horrible events that took place in Newtown last week," the foundation stated on its website. "There are not many degrees of separation in small communities like Newtown, and so, not surprisingly, we had family, friends and acquaintances that were affected.
"We are weighed down by their heartbreaking stories and the sorrow that has blanketed our community. Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy. Out of respect for the families, the community and the ongoing police investigation, it would be inappropriate for our organization to comment or participate in media requests at this time."
In another statement issued Dec. 19, the foundation said in response to President Barack Obama's announcement of a task force to study potential gun reform: "Being one of the ‘stakeholders' he discussed, we would welcome the opportunity at the appropriate time to become part of a full national conversation with all policy makers that has as its goal the improved protection of our children and our communities from future violence."