The National Rifle Association has cancelled its annual conference in Houston, which was set for next month, citing an increase in COVID-19 cases in the state.
“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 gun rights organization and lobbyist said Tuesday in a statement.
It added that it made the decision to cancel its Sept. 3-5 event as “[w]e realize that it would prove difficult, if not impossible, to offer the full guest experience that our NRA members deserve.”
The organization said its top priority is the health and well-being of its members, staff and sponsors who were to travel across the nation to attend its annual event that attracts thousands of gun enthusiasts a year.
“So any impacts from the virus could have broader implications,” it said.
The organization said its decision came after analyzing COVID-19 data from Harris County, which is home to Houston, where health officials have issued a severe threat warning, the highest on its four-level scale, urging residents unless fully vaccinated to stay home as outbreaks have either strained or exceeded public health capacity.
According to county data, it reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, which is a significant drop compared to the more than 3,000 it registered on Thursday.
Texas as a whole has been experiencing climbing cases since the end of June when it reported around 1,400 infections compared to 13,666 on Monday.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization against gun violence, said the the decision to cancel its event due to COVID-19 “is probably the only time the NRA has put public health and safety before profits.”
“The NRA claims to have analyzed data and consulted with medical professionals and local leaders about the dangers of the pandemic in Texas, but seems to have completely ignored this exact process when it pushed permit-less carry through the state’s legislature two months ago,” she said in a statement.
Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt also scolded the organisation, saying that now that it had acted in the name of public health, it should do more.
“It’s past time for them to broaden their care beyond their members and stop dumping gasoline on another boiling health crisis: gun violence,” Feinblatt added.
The NRA stated that it “looks forwards” to its “Celebration of Freedom,” which is scheduled for May of next year in Louisville, Kentucky.
“In the meanwhile,” it continued, “we will support many other NRA local events and smaller gatherings in a way that is protective of our members and promotes our Second Amendment freedom.”