Two of country’s leading men have joined the movement to end gun violence, since Dierks Bentley and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard have both voiced their support for Congress to enact universal background checks.
In conjunction with the Toms apparel company’s new End Gun Violence Together campaign, Bentley and Hubbard have directed online followers to the Toms website, where they can send postcards urging action to their representatives. “More than 90% of Americans support universal background checks. And I’m one of them,” reads the default language of the postcards, which are part of $5 million Toms is giving to various organizations around the cause. Establishing universal background checks at the federal level would eliminate the gun show loophole that allows numerous firearms to be sold without buyers being screened.
“Proud of my friend @blakemycoskie and @toms for jumping into the discussion on how we can work together to #endgunviolence,” wrote Bentley on Instragram on Wednesday. “He has a gift for bringing people together and I’m happy to see him applying it to this cause.”
In his own Instagram post on Thursday, Tyler Hubbard appealed to his fans’ empathy and sense of responsibility. “This is not a political post, but a post about the betterment of humanity,” he wrote.
In an accompanying video, Hubbard noted the staggering amount of mass shootings that have taken place in 2018 alone. “As a proud gun owner myself, that’s a right and a privilege I take very, very serious,” he said. “We can all come together and agree that something has to change. It’s unacceptable. We shouldn’t have to walk out of the house and live in fear anymore.”
Country music has had a complicated, often cozy, relationship with guns in recent years. Numerous songs — see: Luke Bryan’s “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” — have extolled the virtues of guns as part of the sportsman’s lifestyle and country living, but country also had ties to the National Rifle Association through its lifestyle brand NRA Country. In the wake of the Route 91 shooting, that relationship appeared to be in flux and many artists including Florida Georgia Line were scrubbed from the NRA Country website.
Bentley and Hubbard are the two latest high-profile country performers to wade in to the contentious debate around guns and gun violence, a topic on which many other country artists — with notable exceptions such as Tim McGraw, Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne and Eric Church — have remained silent. A handful of other performers have addressed the issue in more subtle ways, with Carrie Underwood examining the lives connected to one cut short by a gun in “The Bullet” and Kane Brown calling the violent present an “American Bad Dream” on his new album.
In the last 18 months, gun violence has had a direct impact on country fans, with the Route 91 massacre in Las Vegas counting 58 lives lost and leaving hundreds of others with injuries in late 2017. More recently, a shooter opened fire at the country-focused Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California — where patrons actually included Route 91 survivors — leaving another 12 people dead.