Sohn: Country music sings new tune on guns

Sohn: Country music sings new tune on guns

October 4th, 2017 by Pam Sohn in Opinion Times

A woman sits on a curb at the scene of a mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas on Sunday. At least 59 people were killed and more than 500 injured.

Photo by John Locher

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The world of country music found itself learning a sad and tragic lesson in the aftermath of Sunday's Las Vegas mass shooting.

Guns are not the same as mom and apple pie. And the National Rifle Association is not Dad's old hunting magazine. This is true even in the South, where NRA and Second Amendment stickers abound on the bumpers of pick-up trucks.

Country music guitarist Caleb Keeter, of the Josh Abbott Band, performed at the Country Music Festival in Vegas on Sunday and was still at the venue when the shooting began.

"I've been a proponent of the 2nd amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was," Keeter wrote on Twitter the next day. "We need gun control RIGHT. NOW. My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn't realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it."

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Keeter also took on the notion that more guns are the answer.

"We actually have members of our crew with [Concealed Handgun Licenses], and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless. We couldn't touch them for fear 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 fire power. Enough is enough."

Speaking up about political issues is rare in country music. Remember what happened to the Dixie Chicks when they spoke out against the wars of President George W. Bush?

But times are changing. And not just on gun attitudes.

Meghan Linsey, a country singer and former contestant on "The Voice," made a statement two Sundays ago when she took a knee in solidarity with the NFL protest of racism after singing the national anthem before the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks game.

"A lot of people are calling my peaceful protest "un-American," but that could not be farther from the truth. I love this country and the men and women who serve and die to protect our freedoms. Part of that freedom is being able to speak out when things are not right," she wrote afterward to The Washington Post.

On Monday, Rosanne Cash wrote her own Op-Ed in The New York Times, urging country music musicians to stand up to the NRA, which in recent years with "N.R.A. Country" has sponsored country music groups and artists who promote it.

Cash acknowledged that she's been a gun-control activist for 20 years. And she's gotten death threats because of that.

But she says the stakes in America are too high now for country music, which is among the most popular genres in the country, "to not disavow collusion with the NRA."

"Pull apart the threads of patriotism and lax gun laws that [the NRA] has so subtly and maliciously intertwined," Cash wrote. "They are not the same. Patriotism and a belief in strong gun control are not antithetical. We need common-sense gun laws."

In 2016, Nielsen listed country as the most-listened to radio format for the eighth consecutive year, topping news/talk radio and Top 40. The genre held 3.6 percent of all listeners.

Political leaders in the GOP — and of course the NRA — are saying this is not the time to talk about gun control and gun safety. Don't politicize the mourning: Remember the victims, they intone.

The only folks who've politicized the victims were the shooters — the shooters who have been religious fanatics or white supremacists or homophobic or child bullies or the mentally ill seeking suicide by police.

On the contrary: Talking about gun safety and gun control is a very constructive way of remembering the victims.

As of Monday, we have seen 477 sunrises since June 12, 2016, the day when a gunman opened fire in an Orlando nightclub and left 49 dead. That Orlando shooting was, until Sunday night in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

And in those 477 days, American has had 521 mass shootings — mass being defined as a shooting in which four or more people were injured or killed in a single event at the same time and location, according to Gun Violence Archive.

If today is not the right day, when will we get one?

Sing it, Nashville.

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