All the Rage

Tim McGraw Is Being “Dixie Chick’d” For Standing Up For Gun Control

A simple partnership with a Sandy Hook non-profit has “patriots" using the country star for target practice. When did we trade rationale for “rights”?

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Daniel Barden was a sweet “old soul” who wanted to grow up to become a firefighter like the two cousins he idolized. On the morning of December 14, 2012, he took the bus to his Connecticut school, Sandy Hook Elementary, just like he did every other day. It was less than two weeks before Christmas and school vacation, which for a 7-year old, was a time filled with endless possibilities. Until it wasn’t. Because on that day, Daniel and 19 of his classmates never returned home.

One of the most painful, heartbreaking and enraging things you’ll ever read is the story of what life has been like for Daniel’s parents since then: The hour between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. is especially grueling for the Bardens—it was the hour when Mark and Jackie Barden would be alone with their youngest, after the older kids had already gone off to school. Some days, the couple goes out to meet the bus that Daniel used to take to school, and hug their son’s favorite bus driver, who delivered one of Daniel’s eulogies. The grief endured by the family could bring the strongest person to their knees. Determined to spare other parents from that unrelenting pain, the Bardens have partnered with Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting children from gun violence. Sandy Hook Promise’s approach is three-pronged: They work to empower “parents and communities with targeted prevention programs in the areas of mental wellness early-identification and intervention; social and emotional development; and firearm safety and security.”

You’ll notice that nowhere in Sandy Hook Promise’s mission statement does it say anything about banning guns. That’s not by accident. The group has no intention nor desire to ban guns. “We support the Second Amendment. We recognize an individual’s right to bear arms and support millions of law-abiding citizens in the United States who own firearms. We believe with rights come responsibilities that we all bear to ensure the safety of individuals, communities and our nation. Current laws need to be enforced and need to have loopholes closed. Where applicable, new laws should be considered where public safety and reduction in violence can be achieved without eroding Seconnd Amendment rights.” But in America, land of the free and the home of the drive-thru ammunition stores, “firearm safety and security” translates to “THEY’RE GONNA TAKE OUR GUNS!!” This willfully ignorant misinterpretation has made Sandy Hook Promise, and anyone affiliated with them, an enemy of the NRA and other like-minded ammosexuals. The current Enemy #1 on their very long list? Tim McGraw, one of the best-selling artists in country music history. And now Tim is finding himself being, shall we say, Dixie Chick’d.

On April 13, McGraw announced that his July 17 concert at the XFINITY Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, would be a benefit for Sandy Hook Promise. McGraw’s fiddle player, Dean Brown, is a close friend of Mark Barden and introduced the Bardens to McGraw at one of his concerts. The following day, hyper-conservative published the first in a series of hit pieces on both Sandy Hook Promise and McGraw, portraying the event as an unpatriotic assault on the Second Amendment. Given country music’s conservative majority fan base, reaction was swift and ugly. 

What’s happening to McGraw is reminiscent of what happened to the Dixie Chicks when their lead singer, Natalie Maines, spoke out against President Bush and the war in Iraq. With 12 words—”We’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas”—their careers as country-music superstars were over. Radio stations across the country refused to play their music, and Maines received death threats. Twelve years later, angry former fans are asking country radio to stop playing McGraw’s music and encouraging people to burn his CDs. One guy (my personal favorite) wants to boycott all of the McGraw-Hill companies—which, incidentally, have nothing to do with Tim McGraw or his wife Faith Hill.

But behind all the rhetoric and bluster of the perpetually outraged internet is an unfortunate truth: This country has a malignant obsession with guns and it’s killing our kids. On average, nearly 3,000 kids are killed each year by guns. Over 15,000 kids survive gunshot wounds. If anything else were to have contributed to the deaths of 3,000 kids in any given year, it would be yanked from the shelves and its manufacturers buried under decades of lawsuits and penalties. But in America, we react to these deaths by—what?—buying more guns. Let me underline that: We have reacted to Adam Lanza’s firing 155 bullets in less than five minutes that morning at Sandy Hook Elementary, murdering in cold blood 6- and 7-year-old children, by BUYING MORE GUNS.

And how does this country react to the suggestion that maybe, just maybe we reduce the size of ammunition magazines in order to give innocent people a fighting chance during these massacres? Ask Tim McGraw. As the controversy surrounding Tim McGraw’s Sandy Hook Promise concert reached a fever pitch last week, he released a statement to Fox News: “Let me be clear regarding the concert for Sandy Hook given much of the erroneous reporting thus far. As a gun owner, 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. I can’t imagine anyone who disagrees with that.” You wouldn’t think so after reading what the Bardens have gone through and continue to go through since losing Daniel. Or what the families of Columbine have been through. Or Virginia Tech. Or Aurora, Colorado. Or the families who never make the news, but whose pain from burying their children is just as unbearable. You wouldn’t think a country built on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would allow its most innocent to continually be robbed of them without doing something, anything to prevent that from happening ever again. That would mean a classroom full of dead children is just a momentary glitch in our collective consciousness. And that is what should truly be unimaginable. But instead, we remain a country filled with irrational responses to reasonable expectations. Daniel Barden, his family, and his Sandy Hook classmates deserve better than that. Everyone does.


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