As violent mass shootings continue to plague our country, America's gun control debate rages on. And several country music stars have utilized their platform to comment on the issue.
Today's country artists represent a unique intersection when it comes to the conversation about gun laws. As symbols of the music industry, their voice — and fame — has a wide reach. Considering the fairly conservative country fan base, though, speaking out can be tricky for country singers. However, after the horrific mass shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival in 2017, many members of the country music community realized it was time to get vocal about American gun violence. Read on to learn who exactly has taken a stance.
— Caleb Keeter (@Calebkeeter) October 2, 2017
Caleb Keeter, guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band, was actually present at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. Keeter says the terrifying experience opened his eyes to the need for gun control in America. The Josh Abbott Band had performed just before a gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing 61 people. The next day, Keeter wrote on Twitter:
"I have been a proponent of the 2nd Amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night, I cannot express how wrong I was. We actually have members of our crew with CHL licenses and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless. We couldn't touch them for fear that the police might think we were part of the massacre and shoot us. A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of firepower."
Keeter's sickeningly detailed description illustrates the danger of that situation — even force those who were possessing firearms legally. The honest, difficult account went viral during the aftermath of the shooting.
John and TJ Osborne are famously outspoken. And the subject of gun control is no exception. Watch the brothers explain their opinions on our current gun laws, above, for NowThis. The video also effectively summarizes the genre's glorification of shooting. It's an interesting watch for anyone who is curious about the direction modern country might be headed. And for whether they'll be "Dixie Chick-ed" — a reference to conservative backlash against The Chicks back in 2003 — well, they're not too worried about.
Throughout her successful career, Kacey Musgraves politics have informed her persona. She addressed that dichotomy in a 2019 tweet, writing: I love keeping things about the music and usually stay out of politics publicly UNTIL it barrels past political party preference points and dangerously encroaches on fundamental human rights. It's then not a political issue any more. It's a matter of heart. Of humanity. Of survival." Over the years, Musgrave has been a fierce critic of Donald Trump and continues to speak out against excessive gun ownership.
In 2019, Maren Morris told Esquire directly: "I don't think anyone needs to own a semi-automatic or automatic rifle. I'm from Texas and I've grown up around guns. But as much fun as that was growing up, do I feel particularly safe around guns now? No."
After the Parkland shooting, Jennifer Nettles took to Twitter to emotionally address the issue. "More than anything else, people who want to hurt as many innocent children as they can, use guns to do it. I wonder how long it will take our government to do anything at all. I wonder how loudly the voices of every mother in this country can scream til they do," she wrote. Nettles' Sugarland bandmate Kristian Bush has also expressed the desire for the debate around gun control to move forward.
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 201, Taylor Swift donated to the March for Our Lives gun law reform protests and used her famous social media to garner for the cause.
Although the country singer-songwriter Eric Church says he supports the second amendment, he's voiced concern over the powerful presence of the National Rifle Association. In 2018, he told Rolling Stone: "I'm a Second Amendment guy, but I feel like [the N.R.A. has] been a bit of a roadblock," Church explains. "I don't care who you are — you shouldn't have that kind of power over elected officials... I don't understand why we have to fear a group [like the N.R.A.]. It's asinine."
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
In 2017, Tim McGraw and his wife Faith Hill opened up about the tense topic in an interview with Billboard. "Look, I'm a bird hunter — I love to wing-shoot. However, there is some common sense that's necessary when it comes to gun control. They want to make it about the Second Amendment every time it's brought up. It's not about the Second Amendment," McGraw said.
Hill Agreed. "In reference to the tragedy in LAs Vegas, we knew a lot of people there. The doctors that [treated] the wounded, they saw wounds like you'd see in war. That's not right. Military weapons should not be in the hands of civilians. It's everyone's responsibility, including the government and the National Rifle Association, to tell the truth. We all want a safe country," she said.
In 2013, speaking on the Rise Guys Morning Show, Reba McEntire said that although she is a gun owner no one should own assault rifles. "I do have guns," she said. "I own guns — I have quite a few guns — but I do not have assault rifles. I do not think that anybody has any business having an assault rifle in their possession... Why do I feel that way? Because [there's] way too much power." Without going into too much detail, McEntire went on to say that we need some guidelines when it comes to owning guns: "Boundaries are a good idea. I think they're safer."
Rosanne Cash has spoken publicly about the values instilled in her by her father Johnny Cash. Among them, a respect for all human life. So it's no wonder that Roseanne is a proud proponent of gun reform. Following the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, she penned an op-ed for the New York Times on the topic: "Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A." Read it here.
"The N.R.A. funds domestic terrorism. A shadow government exists in the world of gun sales, and the people who write gun regulations are the very people who profit from gun sales. The N.R.A. would like to keep it that way." — Rosanne Cash
The Nashville singer-songwriter Margo Price takes a similar attitude to Rosanne Cash when it comes to holding fellow country artists accountable. In late 2018, she wrote on Twitter: "For the last few years I've been very vocal about gun control reform. I've done interviews with Washington Post, LA Times, Billboard, Rolling Stone & spoken out on social media. I've experienced a relative amount of backlash from it- not that I give a flying f*ck... I'm glad others in the 'country music' world are finally doing the same. About damn time people stood up." However, Price made sure to denote she was not part of that pack. "I don't consider myself a part of the country music establishment in any way, shape or form and I still think their music (FGL, etc) is empty and shallow." Perhaps the genre rift is due to the difference in politics.
When Sturgill Simpson busked outside the CMA Awards in 2017 (a protest over the CMAs snubbing his Grammy-winning album A Sailor's Guide to Earth ), he took various questions from passersby. At one point, Simpson said, "Nobody needs a machine gun, and that's coming from a guy who owns quite a few guns." Though his most memorable quote of the night was definitely a profanity-laden condemnation of Donald Trump.
Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line came out in support of universal background checks for firearms in 2018. He told Rolling Stone: "We've been given a platform and a voice for a reason, and it's really time to start using that voice for more than just talking about our music and ourselves. Whether it's at a country bar or a country concert, every artist in our genre has been affected by gun violence directly or indirectly, and it's something that really hits close to home and something that everybody wants to talk about, but doesn't really know how to. But there's no better time than now."
Hubbard was an early supporter of an initiative by the shoe company TOMS which campaigned for a universal background check campaign. For TOMS, Hubbard enlisted the support of fellow country celebs including the trio Lady A, singer Dierks Bentley, and Karen Fairchild, and Jimi Westbrook of Little Big Town.
An Open Letter
In 2016, following the hateful shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the editors at Billboard country musicians penned an open letter to Congress demanding gun law reform. Many famous musicians signed the letter, including a few country stars: Cam, Bonnie Raitt, Rosanne Cash, and the Chicks.
"By Degrees" was a musical project, recorded in 2018, which combined multiple country forces to deliver one clear message: the gun violence must stop. The song involved Lori McKenna, Mark Erelli, Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow, Josh Ritter, and Anais Mitchell.
Enjoy Country Music?
Sign up for daily stories delivered straight to your inbox.