Why country music needs to speak up about gun control - Macleans.ca
 

Why country music needs to speak up about gun control

After the mass shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival, it’s time for the industry’s biggest stars to advocate for better gun control in the United States.


 
LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 02:  A cowboy hat lays in the street after shots were fired near a country music festival on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV – OCTOBER 02: A cowboy hat lays in the street after shots were fired near a country music festival on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. A gunman has opened fire on a music festival in Las Vegas, leaving at least 20 people dead and more than 100 injured. Police have confirmed that one suspect has been shot. The investigation is ongoing. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

On Saturday night, I filtered into a small hockey arena in Kelowna, B.C., with thousands of people who had driven in from all over to see country music star Miranda Lambert. The guy at security who checked my bag joked about being disappointed that I wasn’t trying to smuggle booze in. I made small talk with the women — and it was pretty much all women — crushed together in front of the merchandise table, eager to spend money they’d saved to pick up some official Lambert swag. The excitement was palpable — we’d come to see a show we’d been anticipating for months, to bask in the talent of an artist whose songs make our everyday lives a little bit better. A young woman I met there, 19-year-old Carson, cried with excitement when she saw Lambert take the stage. We sang every word to every song until the night ended, safely.

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That wouldn’t be the case for so many of my fellow country music fans in Las Vegas the very next night. I woke up to news Monday morning that at least 58 people were killed and more than 400 injured in one of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history. Police believe 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of rounds within minutes from his hotel room window, down into the crowd of attendees at Vegas’s Route 91 Harvest music festival Sunday night.

A 28-year-old woman from Alberta, Jessica Klymchuk, made the trip. So did Jordan McIldoon, 23, of Maple Ridge, B.C. They were killed in the spray of bullets that popped like fireworks as country music’s reigning entertainer of the year, Jason Aldean, finished his outdoor set in Vegas. What was supposed to be a carefree night in Vegas to celebrate country music became a total nightmare.

Since news of the attack broke out, big stars in the music world spoke out in favour of gun control, including Rihanna and Ariana Grande, whose own show in Manchester, England was the target of violence this spring. Aldean — who ran for cover once he realized his audience was under siege — shared a statement on Facebook. “My Thoughts and prayers go out to everyone involved tonight. It hurts my heart that this would happen to anyone who was just coming out to enjoy what should have been a fun night. #heartbroken #stopthehate.”

MORE: After Las Vegas terror, GOP lawmakers hem and haw

Most of the country music world’s reaction to the shooting has stopped well short of advocating gun control, echoing the same call for prayers and anti-hate hashtags. That’s understandable to a point — the nation is in shock and mourning. But while prayers are a welcome sentiment, the silence on weapons control in America speaks to the strength of the industry’s long and inextricable relationship with gun culture.

That relationship is tied up in country music’s deep roots in a certain traditional, conservative vision of America, but it’s also about money. Many country music stars, including Gretchen Wilson, Thomas Rhett and Lambert’s ex-husband, Blake Shelton, have affiliations with the National Rifle Association — the most powerful gun lobby in America. The affiliation helps the artists with their image and popularity in the pro-gun heartland of America, and in turn helps the NRA earn and maintain memberships, which gets them the ear of key lawmakers in Washington.

I’m not saying country musicians or fans should put away their guns for good — I believe there is such a thing as a responsible gun owner. But after the events of Sunday night, it’s time for country music’s biggest superstars to speak out against gun violence and advocate for better gun control — because, as research shows, gun control actually works. Nashville’s superstars have the devotion of so many Trump-supporting, gun-owning Americans — and that audience in Vegas was undoubtedly full of them. Country music’s stars have the perfect platform to help bridge the nation’s ideological divides.

RELATED: How America can change its relationship with guns

And yet, there is every indication that all we’ll get is calls for prayers and healing, and little else — and this doesn’t surprise me in the Trump era. The biggest artists of the genre have been frustratingly silent about mounting racial tensions in the United States. When very few country music stars, apart from Tim McGraw, Kip Moore and Maren Morris, spoke out against the race riots in Charlottesville this summer, Rolling Stone Country attempted to explain the fear: Artists and their labels are still terrified of getting “Dixie Chicked,” a reference to the total shunning of country trio The Dixie Chicks in 2003, after lead singer Natalie Maines said she was ashamed the Iraq-invading president of the United States at the time, George W. Bush, was from Texas. Country radio still has a lot of power in Nashville, despite the rise of music streaming sites.

One of Lambert’s biggest hits is “Gunpowder & Lead,” a song about a battered woman waiting by the door with a rifle until her husband comes home from jail so she can end her suffering for good. My new friend Carson loved it. I sang along too, to what I’ve long interpreted as an anti–domestic violence anthem.

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I’m curious to know how Lambert will handle that song after what happened in Vegas. While she’s been less vocal about guns recently than she has in the past (Lambert used to perform with a microphone stand in the shape of a rifle), her official logo still features two crossed pistols. I hope she and her fellow country stars will take a minute to question the wide availability of guns in the United States.

“I still don’t know what to say,” Aldean said in his statement. He has a unique opportunity to change how many country music fans feel about gun laws. I want him to say that he never wants to play a show again where fans don’t feel safe. I want him, and all other major country artists, to distance themselves from a gun lobby that uses faulty logic to keep the market for firearms as open as possible. I want them to advocate for gun control.

A change of heart can happen. Even Texas-bred Caleb Keeter, a member of Josh Abbott Band, tweeted today: “I’ve been a proponent of the Second Amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night.”


 

Why country music needs to speak up about gun control

  1. The second amendment was included in the US constitution to ensure that citizens could protect themselves and form militias to oppose corrupt governance.

    At the time, the government had muskets and cannon. Today they have drones, killer robots and spy on every aspect of our lives.

    We have never been more vulnerable than we are today. The second amendment has never been more necessary.

    We are still divided between those duped by the propaganda, complacent and afraid to speak out, and those who have seen past the curtain of propaganda and reject the organized misinformation that undermines our democracy and oppresses us.

    Why did the killer snap? Will we ever know the truth?

  2. “…. to oppose corrupt governance.”

    So instead of shooting at the corrupt governance going on, country music fans get mowed down, toddlers shoot their grandmothers and day-care playmates, and school children get executed.

    Because gun ownership is a ‘right’ but medical care for those who were injured is a ‘privilege’. Yup, makes perfect sense.

    • Do you have a bone to pick or do you want to save lives?

      100 people die every day in the US in motor vehicle accidents. That’s 36000 per year.

      Where’s your outrage? Your lobby group? Why aren’t you telling people they shouldn’t drive?

      • “100 people die every day in the US in motor vehicle accidents. That’s 36000 per year.

        Where’s your outrage? Your lobby group? Why aren’t you telling people they shouldn’t drive?”

        What a stupid and moronic statement. If you haven’t noticed, there are licensing requirements to drive, as well as fines and penalties for dangerous driving. Additionally, when there are factors that are identified to lead to greater fatalities (eg texting while driving or speeding) then laws are passed prohibiting them and crackdowns to enhance enforcement. To try and equate the two in defense of an archaic ideology is absolutely reprehensible and imbecilic.

        • Your issue seems to be guns, not saving lives.

          If it were the latter you would be advocating controlling automobiles or access to abortion.

          But you aren’t because you want to drive and murder babies.

          More than 2000 babies are murdered by abortion in the US every day.

          • Nice attempt to try and deflect; but we’re not talking about MVAs and abortions: we’re talking about the lack of gun control in the US and the thousands of lives that have been lost because of it. To try and bring in separate issues to avoid discussing the one at hand only reaffirms that you have lost this argument and have no leg (nor moral ground) to stand on.

          • I was talking about have the largest impact saving lives.

            You want to talk about guns.

            Who’s on moral thin ice?

  3. This article is a perfect example of blaming the victim.
    Everything that the Los Vegas killer did was already illegal. What makes us believe that new anti-gun legislation will make criminals suddenly obey the law?
    You can’t legislate morality.

    • Uh, no, he legally obtained his semi automatic weapons, that’s point. Whether he obtained banned automatic weapons has yet to be determined; but, regardless, there are loopholes in place that allow him to convert his semi automatics to near automatics legally. Evidently, you can’t legislate critical thinking either.

  4. Before responding to the emotional clamor of the Democrats for “stronger gun laws” because they seek to profit politically and not let the Las Vegas crisis go to waste, let us consider the following questions:
    (1) Has the current anti-gun legislation that is already “on the Books” been adequately been put into effect and strictly enforced, and found to be inadequate? I strongly suspect that they are not enforced strictly according to the Law.
    (2) What new legislation do the Democrats propose to introduce? I have heard no specific new measures to date.
    (3) What specific legislation, current or new, if properly enforced would have prevented the Las Vegas Massacre? None that I can see.
    (4) What new laws would minimize the number of seriously mentally ill individuals allowed to live freely in America?