In December 2012, a shooter took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults in an assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. It was the deadliest shooting ever to take place in an American public school.
Two and a half years later, the Sandy Hook Promise organization has put together a concert to raise funds for promoting “gun safety”. Charity concerts happen all the time, but this one is stirring controversy because the man that has agreed to headline it is one of the biggest stars in a genre of music whose fans have clung to their right to bear arms even in the face of mass shootings.
That man is Tim McGraw.
News of the concert was spread by the conservative media outlet Breitbart in an article titled “Country Singers Tim McGraw, Billy Currington Headlining Gun Control Fundraiser.” (Currington had been scheduled as the opening act.) In the comments, Breitbart‘s readers expressed their dismay, claiming that McGraw had abandoned the principles of the country music fans that bought his records. Some readers even suggested that his participation in the concert might end his career. As the user WyoAndy put it, “So I guess you will be able to see Tim McGraw and Billy Currington opening for the dixie chicks real soon at the Paramus, Nj holiday inn! They are both dead to me!”
Trigger, over at Saving Country Music, argues that Breitbart is being intentionally inflammatory. McGraw agreed to do the show because he has personal ties to one of the victims of the shooting. Moreover, the concert is raising funds for gun safety, not gun control. After the Breitbart article went viral the organization released a statement clarifying its purposes:
Sandy Hook Promise supports the 2nd Amendment and is not anti-gun. We recognize an individual’s right to bear arms and support millions of law-abiding citizens in the United States who own firearms. Our primary focus is preventing children from being harmed by gun violence…
We support policy that helps identify, intervene and stop at-risk individuals from hurting themselves or others. And, we support laws that will help to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerously ill people and criminals, as well as out of the reach of children to prevent unintentional shooting deaths and injuries that have become much too frequent.
McGraw, in a statement for The Washington Times, takes a similar stance:
Let me be clear regarding the concert for Sandy Hook given much of the erroneous reporting thus far. As a gun owner, I support gun ownership. I also believe that with gun ownership comes the responsibility of education and safety – most certainly when it relates to what we value most, our children. I can’t imagine anyone who disagrees with that…
Through a personal connection, I saw first-hand how the Sandy Hook tragedy affected families and I felt their pain. The concert is meant to do something good for a community that is recovering.
And yet despite these attempts at damage control the concert continues eliciting outrage among fans of country music. Buckling under the pressure, Currington announced on Thursday night that he would not be playing the charity concert though he will open for the other shows on McGraw’s summer tour. Guns rights advocates took Currington’s cancellation as proof that they had been right all along — that the concert had been organized to deprive them of their firearms.
The controversy raises a number of questions that I would love to hear your thoughts about in the comments (or your own posts). Why are guns such a big deal for fans of country music? Do you agree that every “authentic” country performer should support the Second Amendment? Should McGraw have agreed to perform the Sandy Hook Promise concert? Should Currington have pulled out of it?
Most importantly, do you think WyoAndy is right that the controversy signals the end of McGraw’s career? Is he the new Dixie Chicks?