Aug. 25 (UPI) — The National Rifle Association has canceled its annual meeting that was scheduled next month for Houston amid surging COVID-19 cases in Texas.
“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.
John Feinblatt, preside to Everytown for Gun Safety, also chastised the organization, saying now that it has acted in the name of public health it should do more.
“It’s time for them to extend that concern beyond their members, and stop throwing gas on another raging health crisis: gun violence,” Feinblatt said.
The NRA said it “looks forward” to its “Celebration of Freedom” planned for May of next year in Louisville, Ky.
“In the meantime, we will support many other NRA local events and smaller gatherings — in a manner that is protective of our members and celebrates our Second Amendment freedom,” it said.