Amidst controversy, opener Billy Currington backs out of the benefit show.
Tim McGraw announced earlier this week that he plans to take his Shotgun Rider Tour through Hartford, CT in July to support Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization formed to help the community recover following the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012. This is not the first time a country artist has come out to support a good cause, so why all the controversy here?
According to Rolling Stone Country, an article on breitbart.com called out the singers as "headlining a gun control fundraiser," saying that "the money McGraw and Currington raise will ultimately succeed in making it harder for law-abiding citizens to acquire and carry the guns they need for self-defense." The assertions in the article provoked gun rights activists including Travis Tritt and the NRA, to take to Twitter to voice their disapproval.
Caught in the cross-fire, Currington fired back, saying, "I didn't sign up for shit," in a Tweet on April 15th that has since been deleted. He stated, "just hearing about it like you are," apparently learning of the fundraiser along with the general public.
"I've never been one to take on controversial issues -- I'm a singer," he wrote in a Facebook statement a day later. "I do feel strongly about honoring and supporting the Sandy Hook community and will be making a donation to a local organization. I appreciate people's freedom and passion for whatever cause they support, however, I am choosing to step aside from the fundraiser and focus instead on the rest of the tour dates."
Tim McGraw, on the other hand, will not be bullied into canceling the benefit show. In a statement to the Washington Post, the father of three wrote, "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."
With his fiddle player, Dean Brown, being close family friends with one of the 20 children killed in the attack, it is easy to see why the cause hits home for McGraw. He continued, "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 the community that is recovering."
The Sandy Hook Promise website states their mission, which is to "protect children from gun violence so no other parent experiences the loss of their child by engaging and empowering parents and communities with targeted prevention programs." It specifically says in "their promise," that "there is no agenda other than to make our community and our nation a safer, better place."
With Currington gone from the lineup, it looks as though McGraw will be left with newcomer Chase Bryant to open the show. The Shotgun Rider tour will stop at Hartford's Xfinity Theater on July 17th as scheduled with all proceeds benefiting Sandy Hook Promise.