Nearly one year ago, country music star Eric Church watched in horror as dozens of concertgoers were killed at a Las Vegas festival where he’d just played. During a recent interview for the cover of Rolling Stone, Church railed against the NRA for blocking any progress on sensible gun reform.
“There are some things we can’t stop,” Church told the magazine. “Like the disgruntled kid who takes his dad’s shotgun and walks into a high school. But we could have stopped the guy in Vegas. I blame the lobbyists. And the biggest in the gun world is the NRA.”
Church is a gun owner and avid supporter of the Second Amendment, but the Vegas shooting changed him “a little” on the issue. While he owns “about half a dozen” guns, he agreed that no person should be able to own the 13 AR-15 rifles equipped with “bump stocks” that the Las Vegas shooter had. The addition of the “bump stock” gave 64-year-old Stephen Paddock the ability to fire off more than 1,100 bullets into a crowd of 22,000 people, police reported in wake of the event.
“As a gun guy, the number of rounds [the shooter] fired was un-f*cking-believable to me,” he said. “I saw a video on YouTube from the police officer’s vest cam, and it sounded like an army was up there. I don’t think our forefathers ever thought the right to bear arms was that.”
Church had been the headliner for the event prior to the night of the shooting and many of the victims were members of his fan club.
“I felt like the bait: People come to see you play, then all of a sudden they die? That is not an emotion that I was prepared to deal with. It wrecked me in a lot of ways,” he told the magazine.
In wake of the shooting, he has been willing to advocate for restrictions on something that is part of the culture of country music.
“It got dark for me for a while,” he confessed. “I went through a period, a funk, for six months at least. I had anger. I’ve still got anger. Something broke in me that night, and it still hasn’t healed. There’s a part of me that hopes it haunts me forever.”
Manager John Peets noted that the incident was “really hard” for him to come to terms with.
“I think it just opened up an awareness of how fragile all this really is,” he said.
The NRA lobby is the barrier to safety, according to Church.
“I don’t care who you are – you shouldn’t have that kind of power over elected officials,” he continued. “To me it’s cut-and-dried: The gun-show [loophole] would not exist if it weren’t for the NRA, so at this point in time, 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.”