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NASHVILLE -- The National Rifle Association says it is cancelling its 149th annual meeting next month in Nashville amid growing concerns about the coronavirus.

In a statement posted Thursday evening on on the gun-rights organization's website, the NRA stated "we realize many NRA members and meeting guests have questions about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the potential impact on our convention."

The group goes on to say "we have been closely monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tennessee Department of Health."

(READ MORE: Tennessee legislative leaders discourage but won't ban visitors at state Capitol amid coronavirus outbreak)

NRA officials noted that on Thursday, Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee declared a state of emergency due to the potentially deadly virus that has infected at least 18 Tennesseans at last count, hospitalizing two of them, and disrupted activities at schools, universities, athletic events and more, not just in Tennessee but across the U.S.

"Therefore, we have reluctantly decided to cancel this year's NRA Annual Meeting, planned for April 16–19 in Nashville," the NRA stated. "This applies to all events and scheduled programs, including the NRA-ILA Forum. 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."

(READ MORE: As Gov. Lee names 15-member coronavirus task force, state senator likens virus to flu)

The NRA said details on rescheduling the planned NRA Members' Meeting will be forthcoming.  And "that 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.  

"Please know that we did not reach this decision lightly," the statement adds. "We were ultimately guided by our responsibility to help ensure the safety and well-being of our NRA members, guests, and surrounding community," the statement added.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.

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