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Voters explain what issues matter to them at the Great American Outdoor Show

Jeremy Long
/
WITF

Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to the National Rifle Association’s Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg this week, according to event organizers.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show complex was filled with firearms displays, taxidermied animals, boats, fishing gear, all-terrain vehicles and people who enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and being outdoors.

As the nine-day show headed into its final weekend on Friday, thousands showed up to hear former President Donald Trump speak at an NRA forum inside the Farm Show Arena – a place where Trump has spoken several times before.

Many said they were concerned about issues such as border security, the economy and inflation.

Here’s what some said were the most important local issues in the next election:

Becky Sneidman from Bloomsburg made her first trip to the show because she enjoys the outdoors. She believes one issue affecting her community is veteran homelessness.

“My daughter-in-law works for the agency on aging. And honestly, they have had an increase in the amount of veterans that are coming through there with housing issues,” Sneidman said. “The money that we’re putting out for these people coming in from the southern border, I think we should be putting that money towards our veterans who often are homeless and need help.”

Drew Spence of West Virginia was there to window shop. He said he’s concerned about the increased cost of living.

“Just daily cost of living, food, fuel, insurance, the list goes on,” Spence said. “Just daily expenses. Where a 100 dollar bill would go x amount far, now it is approximately half that.”

Spence also said friends and family are seeing their salaries, hours and jobs cut.

“Salaries [are] staying the same or in some cases it’s dropping for some folks. The employer can’t afford to keep them on for as many hours per week. So, it’s a real issue,” Spence said. “Some people are losing their jobs due to the business going under or downsizing.”

Glenn and Gail DeTample, retired police officers who now live 45 minutes north of Charlotte in North Carolina, sat in a children’s play area, watching their grandchildren exhaust some energy.

One issue Glenn is concerned about is overdevelopment.

“We actually bought a little farm down there in North Carolina and all around us, it was open space when we moved down there,” he said. “Now it’s all development. All the farmland is disappearing. In the last five years, it’s unbelievable. The transition from farmland to housing. We’re completely surrounded by houses now.”

DeTample, who is originally from outside Philadelphia, wants to see more land conservation and believes if people were better connected to the farmers, that would happen.

“People have to start caring about farmland, caring about the community, getting involved with the farms, understanding how the farms work and how difficult it is to farm,” he said.

Glenn also sees drug and alcohol addiction affecting his community. One suggestion he had to solve the problem was to close the border.

Fentanyl is part of a significant rise in opioid overdose deaths, beginning roughly in 2015.

“The drugs have just destroyed these kids and we have to do something about that,” he said. “If it takes closing the border to stop the flow, then let’s close the border to stop the flow.

A report last year by NPR showed nearly all illicit fentanyl smuggled in from Mexico is by people who are legally authorized to cross the border. More than half by U.S. citizens. Almost none is seized from migrants seeking asylum.

Local law enforcement is another solution Glenn suggested.

“Let police officers do their jobs,” he said. “They just want to make their community better. That’s what most police officers want to do. If you have a bad apple in the police department then deal with it.”

While firearms were not the sole focus of the NRA’s show, the Second Amendment was a concern for Kevin Lodema, who lives in northwestern New Jersey.

“I think it’s my God-given right to protect myself and my family,” he said.

Lodema does not have a concealed carry permit, but is considering getting one.

He’s concerned about a law New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed that made it easier to obtain a concealed carry permit but banned carrying firearms in sensitive areas such as public parks, beaches, bars, restaurants and medical facilities.

Murphy signed that bill into law after theU.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling in October that tossed a law requiring a permit to carry a gun in New York.

“The laws change daily,” Lodema said. “They’re constantly treading on our rights.”

Lodema does not oppose background checks for people who want to buy a firearm.

Lodema also talked about how Murphy shut down black bear hunting on state grounds in 2013, but the state recently opened that back up after an increase in black bear sightings.

“But the people who live in bear country have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis,” Lodema said.

Despite any concerns people have, Sneidman said there is one thing to always remember.

“I think we have to remember that we do live in the greatest country in the world,” she said, “and we’re very fortunate and I think we need to take care of