NRA Country Removes Country Artists From Its Website
The relationship between country music and gun culture appears to be getting a little bit less openly friendly. Rolling Stone Country reports that on Friday (March 16), NRA Country removed the names of more than three dozen country musicians from its website.
NRA Country has previously spotlighted a steady roster of featured country artists as part of an outreach program designed to appeal to country music fans. Representatives for NRA spotlight artists including Justin Moore and Granger Smith tell Rolling Stone Country they had no prior knowledge that NRA Country was removing them from its website before the organization rolled out its newly redesigned site on Friday.
The list of artists who have appeared as NRA Country featured artists in exchange for promotional consideration in the past has included huge mainstream country stars like Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line.
The move comes just over a month after the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a 19-year-old former student shot and killed 17 people in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.
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That attack took place just four months after 26 people died at the hands of another lone gunman in a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, including at least 12 children. The victims of that mass shooting ranged in age from 17 months to 77 years. Just a month before that, 58 people died and more than 700 more were injured when a shooter opened fire on the audience at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1.
The NRA has been under intense scrutiny and public pressure since the Parkland attack, as student survivors have turned to activism to apply public pressure to try to secure changes to U.S. gun laws that many experts say would help prevent future shootings. The organization has come under withering criticism from those who say it uses financial lobbying to essentially control gun legislation in a way that sells more guns, instead of protecting more people.
"I can only guess that after the Parkland shooting, there were a lot more acts that felt queasy about having their name directly associated with the NRA," Thirty Tigers President David Macias tells Rolling Stone Country. Thirty Tigers is a multi-faceted company that works in marketing, distribution and management for several previous NRA Country artists.
"So, rather than be left with a list of artists that only has Charlie Daniels on it, they decided to change it so that you couldn't tell which acts were associated," he adds.
The relationship between country music and the NRA had begun to visibly fray after the Las Vegas shooting, which began during Jason Aldean's headlining set the at Route 91 Harvest Festival. A number of country stars were pinned down during the rampage, though none were among the injured or dead. Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line were both removed from NRA Country's website shortly afterward.
"As the mass shooting and this level of violence started ramping up over the past few years, corporations and organizations in Nashville have realized that [associating with the NRA] is not a good look, whereas many of these artists didn't really think about these things until very recently, when things have really come to fruition. Now, it's really become a big issue," one country music industry source tells RSC.
Last week, CMT suspended its programming for 17 minutes during a nationwide school walkout to honor of the lives lost in the Florida shooting. CMT also became the first major country music industry player to speak out on gun control, announcing it would be "work[ing] with the country music industry on its efforts to support gun safety."
On Saturday (March 24), Parkland survivor and student activist Emma Gonzalez will help lead the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., whose goal is to bring more pressure for sensible gun control laws. There will be additional rallies all over the country, including one in Nashville.
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