Last October, Eric Church paid tribute to the 58 people who lost their lives in the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival shooting with a song called "Why Not Me" and a heartfelt speech during a performance at the Grand Ole Opry. Nine months later, the country music star reflects on the tragedy in a new interview with Rolling Stone, calling out the National Rifle Association in particular for being a "roadblock" in gun control reform.
“There are some things we can’t stop,” Church tells 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.” He adds, “I blame the lobbyists. And the biggest in the gun world is the NRA.”
Church, who owns about a half a dozen guns himself, said that the Vegas shooting changed his feelings about guns "a little." But even though he supports the Second Amendment, he says that no one should have as many guns as the shooter had in Mandalay Bay that night. "As a gun guy, the number rounds the shooter] fired was un-fucking-believable to me. I saw a video on YouTube from the police ficer’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."
Though Church was no longer in Vegas when the shooting took place (he performed at the festival as a headliner two nights prior), he knew some his fans were in that crowd. Church had promoted travel packages to make it easier for fans to attend Route 91, which made him feel a sense guilt once he heard the news.
"I felt like the bait: People come to see you play, then all a sudden they die? That is not an emotion that I was prepared to deal with. It wrecked me in a lot ways,” he says.
Several Church's fan club members were victims. One the 58 who were killed was a 29-year-old named Sonny Melton, who was buried in an Eric Church T-shirt. “It got dark for me for a while,” the singer admits. “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 me that hopes it haunts me forever.”
Church's manager, John Peets, reiterates just how hard it was for the singer and his team. “It was a motherfucker on him. Really hard. I think it just opened up an awareness how fragile all this really is.”
The tragedy also confirmed Church's thoughts on the NRA: They have too much power.
"I don’t care who you are – you shouldn’t have that kind power over elected ficials. 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 a problem than the solution. I would question myself real hard about what I wanted to be in the next three, four, five years.”
Even if he receives flack from fans for his stance, he stands his ground. “Right’s right and wrong’s wrong," Church asserts. "I don’t understand why we have to fear a group like the NRA]. It’s asinine. Why can’t we come together and solve one part this? Start with the bump stocks and the gun shows. Shut a couple these down. I do think that will matter a little bit. I think it will save some lives.”