Two of the world’s largest gunmakers are taking divergent approaches to the upcoming NRA Annual Meeting.
Benelli and Smith & Wesson responded on Monday to a recent report claiming they, alongside most major gun companies, decided to back out of the event. The Daily Beast published a story on Saturday claiming the top brands in the gun world were concerned about sending staff to Houston, Texas, to man the massive indoor exhibit hall given the high number of Covid cases and
Daren Cole of Blue Heron Communications, which handles communications for the Benelli brands, confirmed that the company is not attending the Annual Meeting. He said the decision not to go was based not based on allegations NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre and other executives diverted millions in NRA funds toward personal expenses and luxury trips. Instead, the company decided to back out over concern for employees’ safety.
“It’s Covid related,” Cole told The Reload.
Smith & Wesson denied The Daily Beast‘s report. They said the company did plan to have a presence in Houston for the event.
“That report was not accurate,” the company told The Reload. “We intend to be at the show.”
Browning, FN Herstal, Savage Arms, Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, and Sturm, Ruger & Company did not respond to requests for comment despite being named in the story as canceling their plans. Kimber Manufacturing told The Reload it did not have a comment one way or another on its plans for the meeting.
Similarly, the NRA itself said it did not have any comment at this time on the reported cancelations or whether they will cancel the entire meeting.
The event is scheduled to run from September 2nd through the 5th, and the board is set to meet on the 6th. It includes political speeches from Fox News personalities and top Republican elected officials as well as a concert featuring country music stars. It’s set to take place in the George R. Brown Convention Center and draw tens of thousands of NRA members to the indoor space.
The Annual Meeting also features a set-aside time for members to give direct input to the group’s directors. With the dissolution suit by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D.), which the group failed to wriggle out of by attempting to file for bankruptcy, still looming this year’s members’ meeting could again produce fireworks. The last members’ meeting devolved into a shouting match between board members supporting LaPierre and members who pushed for his ouster.
Last month, internal documents obtained by Bloomberg indicated the group is burning through legal fees at a record pace, with over $22 million spent already this year. That puts them on track to surpass the $40 million spent on legal fees just last year. 2020 also saw the group’s revenues continue to slide.
Part of the reason for the downturn was the cancelation of the 2020 Annual Meeting due to Covid concerns. The meeting is traditionally the biggest fundraising event for the NRA each year. Without money brought in from the sales of exhibit space, merchandise, and memberships, the group’s finances could take a further hit.