Jan. 20, 2011 — -- The SHOT Show, the world's largest gun trade show and conference, began this week in Las Vegas, 10 days after an assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., in neighboring Arizona led to six deaths.
Gun control advocates criticized the timing of the show so soon after the shooting of Giffords, D-Ariz., and amid a resulting amplification of the country's ongoing gun debate.
This is the 33rd annual SHOT Show, which traditionally begins in the month of January and is the most important gathering of the gun industry. The U.S. gun manufacturing industry has combined annual revenue of $5 billion from about 300 companies, according to Hoover's Inc.
Attendance this year is comparable to that of last year, said Ted Novin, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which sponsors the trade show. About 55,000 people were in attendance through the second day of the show which lasts from Jan. 18 to Jan. 21.
The foundation, a trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting industries, said about 1,600 exhibitors will present a range of products. SHOT is an acronym for Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade.
The gathering for gun vendors and manufacturers is not open to the public and does not aim to sell individual guns. However, the SHOT Show is "extremely important" for manufacturers and distributors to garner business for the coming year, according to Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center.
"For the gun industry, the SHOT Show is like the Detroit Auto Show crossed with the Golden Globes," said Sugarmann. "It is the annual event for manufacturers to market and sell their products. And it's not just gun manufacturers, but accessories and other related products."
The foundation is celebrating its 50th anniversary at the show, which will feature new products, awards and a state of the industry dinner. The organization has a goal of increasing the number of hunters and shooters by 20 percent over the next five years.