The National Rifle Association has a lot of problems on its hands. Aside from the now familiar allegations of cronyism and corruption, the NRA was forced to cancel its annual meeting and exhibits in Nashville last year. That was a huge financial hit for the association, given that the the event routinely draws 65,000 to 80,000 people each year depending on the location and venue capacity.
This year’s NRAAM is scheduled for September 3, 4 and 5 in Houston. However, as you’re probably aware, Covid cases are up again in states nationwide, including here in Texas.
As a result, a lot of big name exhibitors have decided they don’t want to spend a weekend inside a packed hall with tens of thousands of convention goers, exposing their people to the virus and possibly bringing it back to their offices and production facilities.
As the Daily Beast is reporting . . .
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. …
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.
Two executives at Vista Outdoor, an industry powerhouse that owns several of the most popular ammunition brands—like CCI, Federal, and Speer—told friends they will not go either, according to two people familiar with their decisions.
The most popular clothing outfitter in the gun world, 5.11 Tactical, confirmed it will no longer be going and has additionally cancelled plans to attend “all national trade shows for the balance of the year out of concern for the health and wellbeing of our employees, customers, and partners.”
TTAG has heard about the accumulating number of cancellations for a couple of weeks now as some large industry names told us they’ve decided it just wasn’t worth the risk. However, we’ve also heard that there are other considerations behind the decisions of a number of companies that won’t be there.
We’ve been told by a not insignificant number of exhibitors that they didn’t want to support the NRA with a clearly compromised Wayne LaPierre still leading the association. After the allegations made by the New York Attorney General along with the admissions made in testimony during the NRA’s failed bankruptcy bid, NRA leadership has — allegedly — engaged in years of egregious self-dealing, corrupt practices, and mismanagement at the expense of the association’s membership.
As a result, the people who run a number of the industry’s biggest brands didn’t want to be seen as propping up LaPierre by participating in the NRAAM this year. But they also didn’t want to appear insufficiently supportive of the NRA’s five million members who buy a lot of guns, ammunition, and gear every year.
The Covid resurgence, then, has given them the perfect fig leaf for pulling out without raising the issue of the NRA’s mismanagement and lack of oversight.
We’ve heard that with the exhibitor defections so far, the NRA has reconfigured the convention floorspace, trimming it by 20% so those who attend don’t see a lot of large empty booth spaces. That’s a bad look.
Given the people we continue to hear from who are expressing doubts about whether they’ll attend, the NRA’s event planners may have some more trimming to do…assuming they decide to go ahead with the convention at all.