The National Rifle Association announced the cancellation of its annual conference on Thursday to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus.
"We have been closely monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tennessee Department of Health. In fact, earlier today, a state of emergency was declared in Tennessee," Amy Hunter, an NRA spokeswoman, told the Washington Free Beacon in a statement. "Therefore, we have reluctantly decided to cancel this year’s NRA Annual Meeting, planned for April 16 – 19 in Nashville. This applies to all events and scheduled programs, including the NRA-ILA Forum."
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The annual conference has been held at different locations around the United States for the last 148 years. It is among the largest political gatherings in the country. Last year's NRA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis drew around 80,000 members.
The gun-rights group's announcement is just the latest high-profile cancellation of a major gathering as the United States attempts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. CNN's upcoming Democratic Primary Debate was moved from Arizona to Washington, D.C., and will be held without an audience. The NBA, NHL, NCAA, and numerous other sporting leagues have officially postponed or canceled all of their upcoming games. Numerous houses of worship have also canceled religious services in the most heavily affected areas.
State and local governments in Washington, California, and New York have begun banning large gatherings as well.
Hunter said the NRA is making plans to reschedule key parts of the conference, like board elections, when possible.
"We sincerely regret the need for this action, particularly for our many loyal members who join us for this annual celebration of the NRA and our constitutional freedoms," she said. "Details regarding a rescheduled NRA Members’ Meeting will be forthcoming. Under the direction of NRA President Carolyn Meadows, the NRA Board of Directors is working with the Office of the Secretary in relation to board elections, meetings, and the like."
She said the group made the decision to cancel the event out of a concern for their members' safety and said further updates would be made available on the annual meeting's website.
"Please know that we did not reach this decision lightly. We were ultimately guided by our responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of our NRA members, guests, and surrounding community," Hunter said.