COVID Causing Gun Companies To Pull Out Of NRA Meeting?

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

So says The Daily Beast, which isn’t exactly the most friendly news outlet for the National Rifle Association. I suppose the news site could be trying to depress turnout for the annual meeting set to kick off in Houston, Texas on September 2nd, but their reporting seems pretty detailed, and it sounds like if a lot of the big companies don’t pull out completely they might have a much smaller footprint, at least in terms of the number of staff on site.

According to text messages between high-ranking executives obtained by The Daily Beast, multiple gun makers are pulling out of the conference and quietly trying to pressure the NRA to cancel it.

Most of the largest American gun makers have taken steps to drop out, from informing the NRA that they won’t be attending to cancelling travel plans. These companies include Benelli USA, Browning, FN Herstal, Kimber Manufacturing, Savage Arms, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory, Sig Sauer, and Sturm, Ruger & Company, according to people with knowledge of internal communications at these companies.

In these texts, some of the companies said, with rising COVID cases among their employees, they had already begun encouraging work from home, pulled sales reps from the road, and forced mask-wearing on company grounds. None of these companies returned calls and emails requesting comment.

Meanwhile, the American arms of Italy’s Beretta and Germany’s Heckler & Koch have already positioned themselves to skip the convention, out of concern for the health and safety of staff, but appear to be waiting on the NRA to cancel it to avoid drawing the ire from the powerful industry group and the public, two people familiar with situation and another source briefed on the matter said. Neither company responded to The Daily Beast.

Honestly, I’ve been wondering myself if the NRA Annual Meeting will open for business on September 2nd as planned. Obviously the NRA would be loathe to cancel the convention, especially since the 2020 Annual Meeting in Nashville was cancelled just a few weeks ahead of time. This is the 150th anniversary of the NRA, and the group was hoping for a big turnout in Houston, where the NRA drew more than 86,000 attendees to its Annual Meeting in 2013.

Beyond the financial hit to the organization if it was forced to cancel so close to the kickoff of the event, the group is contending with New York Attorney General Letitia James’ attempt to dissolve the organization and gun control organizations declaring that the NRA is losing its influence. The NRA would love to showcase 80,000 members gathering under one roof as a visual rebuttal, but with an average of 2,000 COVID-19 cases being reported every day in Harris County, Texas and a record number of COVID hospitalizations in the Houston area, there may be a number of members who, like the unnamed executives in the Daily Beast report, have decided to play it safe and are planning on staying home.

For what it’s worth, my plan is to cover the NRA Annual Meeting for Bearing Arms if it takes place. I’m fully vaccinated, and while my wife does have a compromised immune system as a result of her lung cancer treatment, she too is fully vaccinated and has plans to get a booster shot. I may very well catch COVID in Houston, given the spike in cases and the large number of attendees from around the country, but I’m not really worried about getting seriously ill. I’m a little more concerned about passing it along to Miss E, but she could also get it from our daughter who’s back in school, or the customers at the bakery where she works. We’re taking precautions, but we’re not going to live our lives in bubble wrap or as hermits who never leave the farm.

Having said that, I also completely understand the decision to not attend, particularly if you’re not vaccinated and have not previously had COVID. Over the past 16 years of attending CPAC, SHOT Show, and the NRA Annual meeting I’ve come home with the sickness I call “convention crud” at least a half-dozen times, and the convention crud going around at the moment is quite a bit more serious than the typical cold I’ve brought home to my family in the past, so I don’t begrudge anyone who decides they don’t really feel like hanging out for a weekend in a COVID hotspot with 80,000 or so of their closest friends.

So far the NRA hasn’t released any statement in response to the Daily Beast article, though the site says the NRA has acknowledged that attendance may be far lower this year than the 86,000 or so people who showed up in Houston eight years ago. We’re less than two weeks away from the Annual Meeting opening for business, so if the National Rifle Association does decide to postpone or cancel this year’s event, they’re going to have to make that decision quickly. They also need to be transparent and up to date in terms of the exhibitors for the Annual Meeting, even if the departure of some of the big manufacturers results in some members staying home as well. Better to let folks know now so they can make an informed decision instead of finding out once they’re on the ground in Houston.