The NRA Has Supported Country Music for Years. Now Some Artists Would Like to Distance Themselves

If you’ve listened to any American talk radio over the last week, you’ll have noticed that some are treating the Las Vegas shootings as a 9/11-level event, something that will live on in the nation’s consciousness for years and something that will probably create all kinds of societal change, some good, some bad.

The National Rifle Association has already said it’s willing to talk about the legality of “bumper stock” accessories that effectively turn a legal semi-automatic rifle into a something pretty damn close to a machine gun. Some Republicans are murmuring quietly about gun control. And country artists who have aligned themselves with Second Amendment folks are starting to have second thoughts. From Rolling Stone:

For the past decade, the National Rifle Association has had a close, codependent relationship with the country music industry, from partnering with artists such as Florida Georgia Line and Lee Brice for cross-promotional campaigns to throwing annual celebrity skeet shoots hosted by Blake Shelton. “It’s no secret,” the Director of NRA Country said in 2015. “If you poll our members, they love country music.”

But now, less than a week after the deadliest shooting in modern American history took place at a country music festival – 58 people were killed and more than 500 were wounded at Las Vegas’ Route 91 Harvest fest by an attacker firing from 32 floors above – country artists seem, at least for the moment, less willing to openly embrace the NRA. Rolling Stone attempted to contact 37 of the artists featured on the website of NRA Country, the organization’s music-affiliated offshoot. Three of those acts – Florida Georgia Line, Thomas Rhett and Luke Combs – clarified they are not partnered with the organization. Representatives for several artists, such as Blackberry Smoke and Sunny Sweeney, declined to comment; reps for more than two-dozen artists – including Justin Moore, Hank Williams Jr. and Jon Pardi – did not respond. After more than 24 hours, only one group, the Nashville duo Love & Theft, would confirm they remain partnered with the organization.

“What you’re seeing with the country music community right now is that everybody is just laying low,” says Don Cusic, professor of music industry history at Belmont University in Nashville. “They are stalling for time.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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