Larry Gatlin and Restless Heart’s Larry Stewart Pull Out of Houston NRA Event After Uvalde Shooting
Larry Gatlin and Restless Heart singer Larry Stewart have both pulled out of an upcoming country music-themed event in support of the NRA, citing the mass shootings that took place at a school in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24.
Gatlin and Stewart were originally slated to take part in the NRA's Grand Ole Night of Freedom event, which is set to take place in Houston on Saturday (May 28). The initial lineup for the event also included "American Pie" singer Don McLean, Lee Greenwood, Danielle Peck, newcomer Jacob Bryant and T. Graham Brown.
Gatlin and Stewart both announced their decisions to pull out of the event on Thursday (May 26). Gatlin's full statement reads as follows:
To my fellow sad Americans—
I cannot, in good conscience, perform at the NRA convention in Houston this weekend. While I agree with most of the positions held by the NRA, I have come to believe that, while background checks would not stop every madman with a gun, it is at the very least a step in the right direction toward trying to prevent the kind of tragedy we saw this week in Uvalde— in my beloved, weeping TEXAS.
It is not a perfect world and the 'if only crowd’s' policies will never make it one. I am a 'what if guy' and I can't help but ask the question, 'What if the teachers had been proficient in the use of firearms and had, in fact been armed this week? My answer is that there would not be 21 freshly dug graves for 21 of GOD's precious children.
My prayers and thoughts go to all who are suffering, and I pray that the NRA will rethink some of its outdated and ill-thought-out positions regarding firearms in AMERICA.
I'm a 2nd Amendment guy, but the 2nd Amendment should not apply to everyone. It's that simple.
GOD HELP US PLEASE.
Stewart reiterated his own support for the Second Amendment, but said the timing of the event didn't feel right in his own statement:
Due to the tragedy in Uvalde with the horrific school shooting and children who died, I want to honor the victims, families, the town and our friends in the great state of Texas the best I know how. So I have made the decision to pull out as a performer for the NRA convention this weekend, especially given the event is just down the road. I’m a strong believer in the 2nd Amendment and I know the NRA is a great organization who teaches strict gun safety with a membership of law-abiding citizens who love our country. I just believe this is best for me at this time. God Bless everyone involved!”
Don McLean announced his own decision to cancel his appearance at the event on Wednesday (May 25).
The shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde killed 19 children and two adults, making it the deadliest mass shooting of 2022. The Associated Press reports that the 18-year-old gunman used an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle that he purchased legally the week before the shootings, just after his 18th birthday.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump are all scheduled to speak at the Grand Ole Night of Freedom, which is going forward despite significant social and political pressure on the city of Houston and the NRA to cancel the event. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says a binding contract prevents the city from canceling the NRA event.
The National Rifle Association turned to social media to share a statement about the mass shootings in Uvalde.
"Although an investigation is underway and facts are still emerging, we recognize this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal," reads a tweet from the NRA's official Twitter account.
"As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure."