The National Rifle Association (NRA) announced Tuesday that it was canceling its annual Texas meeting due to safety concerns amid rising coronavirus infections around Houston.
In a statement on its website, the gun rights advocacy group said its “top priority is ensuring the health and well-being of our members, staff, sponsors, and supporters.”
“We make this difficult decision after analyzing relevant data regarding COVID-19 in Harris County, Texas,” the NRA added. “We also consulted with medical professionals, local officials, major sponsors & exhibitors, and many NRA members before arriving at this decision.”
“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 group said. “Those are among the reasons why we decided to cancel our 2021 event.”
The meeting, which was scheduled to take place at downtown Houston’s George R. Brown Convention Center this year, typically attracts tens of thousands of visitors annually from across the country.
The 2019 convention held in Dallas brought the city more than $40 million through hotel bookings and other spending to local businesses, according to the Houston Chronicle.
The NRA said Tuesday that it will be providing updates at a later date on whether the 2021 Meeting of Members will be rescheduled.
“The NRA looks forward to a Celebration of Freedom in Louisville in May 2022,” the organization added. “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.”
The cancellation comes as public health officials throughout Texas, especially in the city of Houston and Harris County, have warned of surges in infections and hospitalizations due to the highly transmissible delta variant.
As of Tuesday, COVID-19 in Harris County was listed as a “Severe Threat,” the highest threat level on the county health department’s coronavirus scale, meaning “outbreaks are present and worsening and public health capacity is strained or exceeded.”
Under this threat level, unvaccinated individuals are asked to leave their homes only for essential needs such as grocery shopping or work, with all people, regardless of vaccination status, instructed to wear masks in indoor, public spaces, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to data from Harris County Public Health, roughly 58 percent of the county’s total population has received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, with about 48 percent fully vaccinated.
Last week, Houston County officials announced that they would be offering $100 rewards for people who get their first vaccine doses, one of their latest moves to encourage more people in the area to get the shot.