I’m probably barking up the wrong tree here. In fact, I’m almost positive that I am, and this plea will be one of way too many that sizzles into nothing as it pings against the flaming hot behemoth of The Great American Gun Debate.
But with over 500 innocent people wounded, and a death toll near 60 that shows no signs of stopping, an internet asshole can only sit on his hands for so long before he tries something — anything — to mitigate the carnage. Christ, this shit was already out of control when we let the bodies of two dozen elementary students pile up with the smallest of blinks. Now? Now, it’s just showboating. But it also got sloppy.
It bit the hand that feeds it.
Before I go any further, let me just make something clear. For once in my professional life, I’m not in the business of scoring any sort of political points outside of making sure Americans aren’t needlessly shot down while watching an outdoor concert, catching a movie, or trying to learn their ABCs. You’d think that wouldn’t be a partisan position, but welcome to our fuckhole of a reality. That said, a quick glance of my social media activity will show that I’m obviously a left-leaning, liberal wiener who’s not a fan of Trump voters, but that doesn’t mean I want to them die in a mass shooting of their own making. Which is where country music comes in.
Because I’m a shitty writer, I’m going to assume that a sizable portion of the crowd at a Jason Aldean concert are stereotypical, gun-loving conservatives. I’d even go so far as to say that the majority of country music listeners fall into that category. So it’s no small thing that Aldean fans found themselves on the receiving end of the 2nd amendment thanks to a stupidly powerful death stick that was fired at them by a man authorities still know next to nothing about. Whether he was ISIS, a mentally disturbed “lone wolf,” Antifa, whatever the fuck, the point is that he should not have been able to dole out that much destruction simply by pulling a trigger from the balcony of a hotel.
It was such a terrifying display that after surviving the attack, Josh Abbot Band guitarist Caleb Keeter went on Twitter and basically admitted that he’d been an idiot about guns his entire life. And if it seems like I’m saying that jokingly, I’m not because this is where the tide could turn.
Those words up there are fucking huge. They’re a spark that could light a fire that’s long overdue. And while it would be awesome if a country star like Aldean said something similar, I’m not about to criticize how he reacts right now because a guy with two daughters and a new baby on the way stood on stage as shots rang out and watched people die in front of him. That’s some horrifying shit for even the toughest of soldiers to process, and I hope he’s surrounded by his family.
However, I’d be lying if I said this piece wasn’t the byproduct of me wondering what might happen if the Vegas shooting was a come-to-Jesus moment for a country act as big as Aldean.
Which brings me to my larger point. I may not like country music, or the political beliefs of some of its fans, but I genuinely don’t want any American to be gunned down because the NRA shifted gears from being a quaint organization focused on hunter safety courses to a massive marketing machine that terrifies impotent rubes into thinking they need an arsenal to ward off the federal government or The New York Times depending on who’s in the White House. And for the record, I’m not talking about banning all guns here. I’m talking about coming to realistic terms about what kind of weaponry the average citizen should be allowed to own, and how we go about getting the deadliest varieties of said weaponry out of the wrong hands. Fast.
That’s where country music comes in. As of this writing, the conventional wisdom is that America probably isn’t going to do a goddamn thing about gun control even after the deadliest mass shooting (so far). And that’s almost definitely the case. But just imagine what would happen if the country industry stepped up and said, “Hey, you know what? Hunting rifles and skeet shooting with shotguns. That’s country right there. But machine guns? C’mon, y’all. Your range toys are killing folks, and ain’t none of you going to start no damn revolution.”
Sure, that scenario seems insanely optimistic to the point of naivety, which it probably is, but Las Vegas showed that nobody is safe from these things. They’re coming for us all. I guarantee there were card-carrying NRA members in that crowd, but a bullet doesn’t give a fuck. And right now, Jason Aldean and the rest of the country music world are staring into the cold reality of that truth. But they also have the power to do something. If they can swing their fans into going to bat for common sense gun control laws, Jesus Christ, that might be the biggest move of the needle the gun control debate has ever seen. Lives could be literally saved.
Or Nashville gets burned to the ground as civil war breaks out, but at least we tried.
UPDATE 1:20 PM: Roseanne Cash is on board.