Houston, we have a problem.
The National Rifle Association canceled its Annual Meeting on Tuesday. The announcement comes just a week before the event was set to begin. The gun-rights group said the rising Covid case count in the host city of Houston, Texas was the motivation behind its decision to cancel.
“Due to concern over the safety of our NRA family and community, we regret to inform you that we have decided to cancel the 2021 Annual Meeting & Exhibits,” the NRA said in a statement. “This cancellation applies to all events and meetings that were scheduled in Houston.”
The news comes after news that major gun makers, including Benelli, were backing out of the event and a report some were pressuring them to cancel. It represents another setback in a long line for the NRA since allegations executives such as CEO Wayne LaPierre diverted money towards lavish personal expenses became public in 2019. The meeting’s cancelation will likely hurt the organization’s already strained finances as the conference is traditionally its greatest single fundraiser of the year.
The meeting also serves as an opportunity for the tens of thousands of members who attend to give direct feedback to leadership. The 2019 meeting of members devolved into a shouting match between LaPierre supporters on the board and members who tried to force him to resign over the allegations of financial impropriety. The LaPierre contingent has successfully maintained control of the organization since then despite a dissolution suit being filed against the organization in New York and a failed attempt to declare bankruptcy as a way to circumvent the action.
The NRA said it plans to reschedule the members meeting at a later date.
The gun-rights group said it decided to cancel after analyzing the Covid data and talking to exhibitors as well as sponsors.
“The NRA Annual Meeting welcomes tens of thousands of people, and involves many events, meetings, and social gatherings,” the NRA said in a statement. “Among the highlights of our annual meeting are acres of exhibit space featuring the latest and greatest firearms, the display of countless accessories, and the offering of adventures and group gatherings that many travel hundreds, and some even thousands, of miles to experience. We realize that it would prove difficult, if not impossible, to offer the full guest experience that our NRA members deserve.”
The group said its “top priority” was the health of its supporters and their families.
“We are mindful that NRA Annual Meeting patrons will return home to family, friends and co-workers from all over the country, so any impacts from the virus could have broader implications,” the NRA said. “Those are among the reasons why we decided to cancel our 2021 event.”
The NRA has no plans to reschedule the conference. Instead, it will focus on smaller and more local NRA events it has already scheduled, as well as the May 2022 Annual Meeting in Louisville, Kentucky.