After mounting pressure from several major gun manufacturers, the National Rifle Association announced Tuesday that it was canceling its much-anticipated annual meeting in Texas next weekend.
In a statement on Tuesday, the NRA cited “the health and well-being of our members, staff, sponsors, and supporters” as its top priority, noting that “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 statement made no mention of the fact that some of the biggest manufacturers had already taken steps to pull out of the conference. That list includes Benelli USA, Beretta USA, Sig Sauer, Sturm, Ruger & Company, and others, according to people with knowledge of internal communications at these companies.
The convention was set to draw a crowd of 35,000 or more, and the prospect of cramming that many people into Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center posed a serious risk of accelerating transmission of the coronavirus. That danger was only heightened since the appearance of the more infectious Delta variant.
The NRA’s decision follows The Daily Beast’s reporting last week, which noted that firearm manufacturers were quietly pulling out of the convention but not saying so publicly to avoid drawing the ire of an increasingly powerful voice in the world of gun owners: right-wing Trump fans who reject CDC warnings about the coronavirus, distrust vaccines, and view the act of wearing a medical mask as an infringement on personal freedoms.
Attendance to the NRA’s annual convention is widely considered mandatory for all the major players in the firearms industry, whose employees and customers have been overtaken by the science-denial of right-wing politics.
Although none of the gun makers responded to The Daily Beast’s repeated requests for comment last week, Benelli has since confirmed its cancellation plans to journalist Stephen Gutowski at The Reload and anonymous sources at six other companies told an industry newsletter they chose to do the same.
Shortly after The Daily Beast’s report, the NRA took down from its website a map of the exhibitor show floor.
On Tuesday, the NRA’s list of confirmed exhibitors was updated and no longer showed Benelli, Browning, FN Herstal, H&K, Kimber Manufacturing, Savage Arms, Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, Ruger, or the large ammunition producer Vista Outdoor.