But the tension between prop armaments and the genuine article came to a head in Rosemont, Ill., where the Chicago Wizard World 2016 recently had its four-day run.
The Chicago Tribune reports that DS Arms, an Illinois gun manufacturer that said it had planned for months to sell replica weapons and offer gun safety tips at the convention, was on the floor Thursday for just an hour-and-a-half — across from booths selling Hello Kitty merchandise and other novelties — before it was kicked out.
The gun manufacturer argued that the convention goers would have made prime customers. “Maybe 90 percent of people walking around in costumes have (presumably fake) firearms,” Dave Selvaggio, who owns DS Arms, told the Tribune.
“Just because people are fans of comic books and sci-fi doesn’t mean they’re not interested in protecting themselves and their family and their belongings,” he added. An open letter to Wizard World written by a “lover of all things nerdy” at the Federalist, a conservative website, opined that by removing the booth Wizard World had left itself vulnerable to future “politically motivated outrage brigades.”
On social media, the hashtag #GunFreeComicCon sung a different tune, with one user sarcastically comparing the idea of a gun dealer at the convention with launching venomous animals into the crowd.
In a statement sent to the Comics Reporter prior to the event, Wizard World representative Jerry Milani wrote that the seller “was to have displayed and presented imitation, costume Star Wars and other movie/comic type weaponry. But, as it has come to our attention that the organization markets and sells actual, real-life weapons, we have elected to not retain them as an exhibitor at the event.”
DS Arms spent 90 minutes on the convention floor before the booth was vacated; to the Tribune, the owner said he had worked with the convention promoter to get space, not directly with Wizard World. A Wizard World staff member ultimately shut down the booth Thursday.
The convention allows fake weapons on its premises, pending a staff inspection upon entry. According to the policy posted to its website, attendees may carry simulated firearms, as long as they are non-firing, as well as bladed items “affixed in their sheaths so that they can not be removed.”