When the first bullets ripped into the crowd in Las Vegas last Sunday night, country music superstar Jason Aldean and his band were wowing their fans with their stalwart brand of down and dirty country pop rock.
When the initial confusion and disbelief gave way to abject terror Jason and his band-mates fled the stage.
Only an hour before, guitarist Caleb Keeter (Josh Abbot Band) had been on stage.
Keeter’s words are remarkable, telling, and heartening for all of us who have been working to overcome America’s baffling inertia on the issue of sensible gun law reform. On his Twitter feed, Keeter wrote:
“I’ve been a proponent of the 2nd Amendment my entire life. Until the events of last night. I cannot express how wrong I was.
We actually have members of our crew with [Concealed Handgun Licenses], and legal firearms on the bus.
They were useless.
We couldn’t touch them for fear police might think we were part of the massacre and shoot us.
A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of firepower.
Enough is enough.
Writing my parents and the love of my life a goodbye last night and a living will because I felt like I wasn’t going to live through the night was enough for me to realize that this is completely and totally out of hand.
These rounds were just powerful enough that my crew guys just standing in close proximity of a victim shot by this f—ing coward received shrapnel wounds.
We need gun control RIGHT. NOW.
My biggest regret is that I stubbornly didn’t realize it until my brothers on the road and myself were threatened by it. We are unbelievably fortunate to not be among the number of victims killed or seriously wounded by this maniac.”
Our best allies in the struggle for gun law reform are guys like Caleb Keeter. It’s essential that urban, liberal, non-gun-owners build coalitions with the vast majority of gun owners and 2nd amendment advocates like Keeter who favor simple, rational, and widely popular gun measures like universal background checks, weapon-category restrictions, ammo restrictions, etc.
Please stop calling for the banning of all guns. Please stop calling for confiscation. Please stop calling for the abolition of the 2nd amendment. Please stop muddying the waters with distracting side-issues like the call to ban hunting, you know, because Bambi. You’re not helping.
The gun war isn’t a war over equipment — it is a culture war. And you can’t win a culture war if your opening salvo is “Your culture is stupid and must be eradicated from the face of the earth.” In rural America, gun ownership is woven deep into the fabric of everyday life. Respect guns. And respect the people who own them, care for them, shoot them, and pass them down to their grandchildren. These people are our best allies in the life-saving work that lies ahead.
Look for ways to build consensus. Start with the obvious – restricting access to semi-automatic military-style assault rifles and large ammo clips. Enact meaningful mental health screening and nationwide, rock-hard background checks.
Don’t be distracted by the naysayers. Don’t argue with them. Go around them.
Tragedies like Las Vegas open a crack in what was an impervious, impenetrable barricade. Let’s slip through the crack with as little side-baggage as possible.
Focus. Be smart about it. This is how we move forward. With our new allies.