Country singer Eric Church places blame on the NRA and gun lobbyists for last October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead. Stephen Paddock, the lone shooter, shot from his Mandalay Bay hotel room at the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival. Church had headlined the show just two days prior to Paddock’s rampage.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Church said, “I blame the lobbyists. And the biggest in the gun world is the NRA.”
Stephen Paddock, the lone shooter, shot from his Mandalay Bay hotel room at the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival. Church had headlined the show just two days prior to Paddock’s rampage.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Church Blames the NRA for the 2017 Las Vegas Shooting
“There are some things we can’t stop. Like the disgruntled kid who takes his dad’s shotgun and walks into a high school,” Church said, before saying that the Vegas shooting was different, preventable.
In explaining why the Las Vegas shooting was different from others, Church seemed to take aim at Paddock’s ability to amass an arsenal and bump stocks (Paddock owned 47 guns, 23 of which were found in his hotel room and 12 of those were fitted with bump stocks). Bump stocks, legal attachments across most of the United States — for now — increase the rate of fire on semi-automatic rifles, effectively turning them into fully automatic weapons.
“I don’t care who you are — you shouldn’t have that kind of power over elected officials. To me it’s cut-and-dried: The gun-show [loophole] would not exist if it weren’t for the NRA,” Church said.
While the majority of Paddock’s guns were purchased from stores across the southwest, in the initial aftermath of the attack, authorities were having trouble tracking guns that could have been bought at gun shows. The gun-show loophole, as many have come to call it, refers to unlicensed firearms dealers selling guns to people at shows without a background check. Licensed dealers must complete a background check on a potential customer before selling them a firearm. Selling guns without a license, gun show or not, is not illegal. Therefore, some background checks can be overlooked.
However, since most of Paddock’s guns were purchased at stores, he submitted and passed numerous background checks.
Church has never been a member of the NRA and said, “if I was an NRA member, I would think I had more of a problem than the solution. I would question myself real hard about what I wanted to be in the next three, four, five years.”
2. Church Recognizes That His Stance on the NRA Could Alienate Some Fans, But That’s Fine With Him
Country music has long been associated with conservatives and Republicans, who are more likely to be NRA members than their ideological counterparts. So, it stands to reason that a portion of his fans are either NRA members or support the NRA.
Church said he doesn’t care if he loses fans over his comments. “Right’s right and wrong’s wrong.”
“I don’t understand why we have to fear a group. It’s asinine. Why can’t we come together and solve one part of this? Start with the bump stocks and the gun shows. Shut a couple of these down. I do think that will matter a little bit. I think it will save some lives,” Church said.
3. Church Owns Six Guns & Considers Himself a “Second Amendment Guy”
In making his comments, Church made it clear that he doesn’t oppose the second amendment. He said he considers himself a “Second Amendment guy.”
“That’s in the Constitution, it’s people’s right, and I don’t believe it’s negotiable. But nobody should have that many guns and that much ammunition and we don’t know about it,” Church said. He went on to say that no one should have “21 AKs and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.”
Church’s offhanded “AK” remark was probably made in reference to bump stocks. AK-47s are fully automatic assault rifles. Actual machine guns have been effectively banned in the United States for private citizens since the Firearm Owners Protection Act was put in place in 1986.
Church’s feelings on stockpiling ammunition are closer to what actually happened in the case of the Vegas shooter. Paddock fired 1,100 rounds into the crowd and had another 4,000 unused rounds in his hotel room.
4. Church Headlined the Harvest Festival Two Nights Before the Attack
Church wasn’t at the Harvest Festival during the attack (Jason Aldean was on stage), but he had just played the event two days prior on September 29. It was his last show of the year. He told Rolling Stone that it was one of the best shows he’s played.
He found out about the shooting that took place two nights later on October 1 via text. He said his first thought was, “I hope it’s not our fans.” He added, “We even promoted online travel options to make it easier for people to come. I felt like the bait: People come to see you play, then all of a sudden they die.”
Some of the deceased were Church’s fans. Multiple members of Church’s fan club were victims in the attack. One of his deceased fans, Sonny Melton, made national news after his wife, Heather, buried him in an Eric Church teeshirt.
Church played a set at the Grand Ole Opry a week later, a show the Meltons had had tickets for.
“The reason I’m here tonight is because of Heather and Sonny, who died,” Church said on stage. “That night, something broke in me, on Sunday when that happened. And the only way I’ve ever fixed anything that’s been broken in me is with music, so I wrote a song for them.”
Church debuted his song “Why Not Me?” that night as a tribute to the Las Vegas shooting victims.
5. Reaction to Church’s Comments on the NRA has Been Mixed on Social Media
As Church expected, not all of his fans are okay with with his comments on the NRA. Stand-up comedian Steve McGrew accused Church of not understanding his fan base.
Others, like Fred Guttenberg, the father of one of the victims of the Parkland shooting, Jaime Guttenberg, applauded Church’s opinion.