The United States Concealed Carry Association (USCCA) is holding its fifth annual Concealed Carry Expo in Pittsburgh this weekend. The group said it expects to draw between 10,000 and 20,000 people despite backlash from some city council members.
Tim Schmidt, USCCA president, told the Washington Free Beacon he expected the event would set a new attendance record for the group.
"This is our 5th annual convention and we’re expecting our biggest attendance," he said. "We have over 200 exhibitors so pretty much every cool gun, holster, and accessory company will be there. We also have a mobile firing range where folks can try out different handguns. There are 34 classes on day one and even more on day two and three. There's tons of opportunity for folks to learn how to be a responsibly armed citizen."
He said the expo will also feature some of the top firearms trainers in the world as well as a live taping of the group's show Proving Grounds and won't be focused on firearms sales like an average gun show would be.
"Unlike what the mainstream media think; this isn't like a gun show, it's more of an expo," Schmidt said. "So, it's really focused on education, training, and consumer awareness."
That opportunistic forecast for attendance at the event comes even after a city council member attempted to have the event canceled because he said it "makes a mockery of" the murder of 11 people in an anti-Semitic attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue last October. Council member Rev. Ricky Burgess sent a letter to the committee on finance and law demanding the expo be canceled as well as one to Tim Schmidt telling him the event "has no place in Pittsburgh."
"I am asking them not to come to Pittsburgh and not have this event given the recent tragedy at Tree of Life as well as ongoing violence in our communities," Burgess told the Incline. "The last thing we need is something to advocate guns. We have 300 million guns in the U.S. and an untold number of homicides and serious shootings. We need less guns, not more."
The event will proceed despite Burgess’s objections.
Schmidt told the Free Beacon he expects the event to go smoothly despite the hostility from the city council. He also said he's invited Burgess and the other city council members to attend the expo to see it for themselves.
"I personally think the safest place to be in Pittsburgh this weekend is going to be at our expo," he said.
Still, he didn't shy away from criticizing the city council's recent decision to pass new gun-control ordinances in possible violation of Pennsylvania's state preemption law. Schmidt called them "ridiculous, onerous gun laws that are not only against the federal Constitution but against Pennsylvania’s own state constitution."
He said USCCA, a non-stock not-for-profit entity owned by its members whose main benefit is a legal protection program for those involved in a self-defense shooting (the author is a member for this reason), has been advocating for laws that benefit its members. He said the group plans to continue focusing on its core mission of education and training but remains committed to fighting against laws like those passed by the Pittsburgh city council.
"Primarily, I see us continuing to focus on the education and training," Schmidt told the Free Beacon. "In terms of political advocacy, we're primarily concerned in making sure that people can join the USCCA in every state in this country. So many gun laws, or what I call ‘anti-freedom laws,' occur at the state level. We are going to be there to ensure those laws are good for USCCA members."
He said their ultimate goal was to grow the organization well beyond its current membership level.
"I see us essentially focusing on the same things we focus on now but instead of having 300,000 members, having a million members," Schmidt said.
The expo will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center from May 17 to May 19.