Eric Church on Route 91 Harvest Festival Shooting: ‘I Felt Like the Bait’
Eric Church has made no secret of how deeply he was impacted by the mass shooting that took place at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in October of 2017, and in a new interview, he opens up about his reaction in the immediate aftermath of receiving the horrifying news.
Church headlined the first night of the three-day festival on Sept. 29, and “and it was one of the best shows I’ve had, everyone was smiling. I was trying to freeze that night, going, ‘This is it — hell of a year.,'" he tells Rolling Stone Country.
Two nights later, he was sitting at home when he received a text telling him there was an active shooter at the festival. On Oct. 1, during Jason Aldean's headlining set on the festival's closing night, a lone gunman opened fire into the crowd from his hotel room adjacent to the concert venue.
“It’s selfish of me, but my first thought was, ‘I hope it’s not our fans,’" Church admits. "We had a lot of fans there. We even promoted online travel options to make it easier for people to come. 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.”
Get the Scoop on Eric Church's "Desperate Man"!
The Las Vegas mass shooting killed 58 people, and more than 800 others were wounded.
“It got dark for me for a while,” Church says. “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.”
Church is a gun owner, but he says the shooting changed his views of gun control "a little."
“I’m a Second Amendment guy,” he states. “That’s in the Constitution, it’s people’s right, and I don’t believe it’s negotiable. But nobody should have that many guns and that much ammunition and we don’t know about it. Nobody should have 21 AKs and 10,000 rounds of ammunition and we don’t know who they are. Something’s gotta be done so that a person can’t have an armory and pin down a Las Vegas SWAT team for six minutes. That’s f--ked up.”
"The number of rounds [the shooter] fired was un-fu--ing-believable to me,” he adds. “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."
He says the National Rifle Association is partly to blame.
"There are some things we can’t stop," Church reflects. "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."
He's never been a member of the gun rights organization, which many feel has undue influence on U.S. policy.
“I’m a Second Amendment guy, but I feel like they’ve been a bit of a roadblock. I don’t care who you are — you shouldn’t have that kind of power over elected officials," Church says. "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.”
Church wrote and performed a tribute song for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting titled "Why Not Me," and the slump he went through after the shooting inspired his new single, "Desperate Man."
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