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Tim McGraw Says Sandy Hook Promise Benefit Is Not Political

Tim McGraw
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Tim McGraw has drawn fire from conservative gun rights supporters over his upcoming performance at a benefit for Sandy Hook Promise, but in a new interview, he says they’re misunderstanding his intent.

The non-profit group was founded by family members who lost loved ones in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. According to its website, the group’s mission is to protect children from gun violence by focusing on prevention, early identification and intervention for possible mental illness, social and emotional development and firearm safety and security, as well as creating programs to help the community through the tragedy.

McGraw has been on the receiving end of an online backlash after published an article falsely calling it a “gun control fundraiser.” He tells ABC News Radio that his motivation is personal, not a political statement.

“I don’t put a political blanket on what I’m doing,” he says. “This is about helping people and leading with your heart. I think that that’s what I try to do, and we’re doing things [that] are earmarked for a lot of good in the community.”

McGraw became involved with the group because his fiddle player, Dean Brown, is a longtime friend of Mark Barden, who lost a child in the shooting. The country superstar met Barden and his wife backstage at one of his concerts a few years ago.

“When you sit across from a family who’ve gone through such a great tragedy, it’s just heartbreaking. And when you sit and have a conversation and you feel connected and they want you to help, and you feel like you can help, then you lead with your heart,” he says. “When you talk about protecting our kids from violence and doing everything you can to protect our children, I’m all in.”

The benefit is part of McGraw’s upcoming Shotgun Rider Tour, which will feature Billy Currington and Chase Bryant as his support acts. Currington has pulled out of the performance, citing the controversy and the fact that he did not know it was supposed to be a benefit, while Bryant has confirmed he will go forward with the show.

McGraw will also headline the Taste of Country Music Festival and Country Jam in June as part of the Shotgun Rider tour. See a full list of dates here.

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