Pittsburgh is currently considering an illegal ban on gun possession during the upcoming G-20 meeting, a move that is spurring NRA officials to ponder pulling their business out of the Steel City. This decision could have a multi-million dollar impact on the local economy and disappoint tens of thousands of regional gun owners. However, the move is not unprecedented.
In 2005, city leaders in Columbus, Ohio passed a ban semi-automatic firearms even after years of data showed that such bans only impact lawful owners, not criminals who roam the streets. NRA members in the region had been preparing for at least two years to welcome their fellow gun owners from around the country in 2007. (NRA schedules annual meetings approximately five years in advance.) However, the assault on gun rights could not be tolerated, and many supported the move by NRA to take its economic might to another city. There was no need to reward anti-rights politicians who were directly thumbing their noses at NRA members with millions of dollars in tax revenue and local spending.
Soon, pro-gun governors lined up to request the NRA convention with open arms. The organization ultimately chose St. Louis, Missouri for the new location of their 2007 meeting. Based on the numbers from the convention held just weeks earlier in May of 2005, NRA told Columbus leaders what they were missing out on.
NRAâ€™s 2005 convention brought $20 million in revenue for Houston, TX, and an overall $50 million impact for the local economy. The 450 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees sold out a total of eight hotels.
For Pittsburgh, the decision to put politics above Second Amendment rights would be a huge pain for the local economy. The last time the Steel City hosted the organization’s annual meeting, they brought in $15 million to local coffers. The NRA was the first major convention to visit the city’s new convention center in 2004 and has remained one of the largest events Pittsburgh has ever hosted. Predictions for 2011 show that gun owners would fill approximate 9,000 room nights and draw just as many visitors to the region as the record breaking 2004 event.
Beyond the direct costs to the city, NRA’s conventions also bring indirect benefits to a region that could be lost should they decide to relocate. Due to the size of the convention (60,000+ attendees), the exhibit hall needs (4-6 acres of space), banquet services (serving 5,000+ in one meal), and other major meeting hall needs, a city that successfully hosts an NRA convention can receive great publicity in the convention industry. As noted by Pittsburgh officials, for a convention the size of NRA’s to visit the city a second time in such a short span is nearly unheard of in the industry. In addition, as a major national media event, cities often get free positive promotion for absolutely no cost in thousands of stories filed from the NRA press office.
All-in-all, Pittsburgh loses not just on principle with the passage of an illegal gun ban, but the city leaders will cost the area business owners tens of millions of dollars in lost sales. Pennsylvania’s gun owners will also lose easy access to a great event.
Perhaps Ohio would like the business again since the state promptly responded to the Columbus gun ban with state preemption!