The National Rifle Association finally released a statement on Thursday addressing last weekend’s massacre in Las Vegas, which left at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured. As you might expect, the lobbying group pushed back against calls for more gun control, and instead focused on “bump fire stocks,” an attachment used by the gunman in Vegas, which they claim allowed his semi-automatic rifles to function more like automatic rifles.
But if you venture over to NRA Country, the organization’s country music offshoot, it’s as if the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history never happened. There’s no link to the statement, no thoughts and prayers, no reference to the shooting whatsoever. As of this writing, their most recent Twitter activity is a retweet of frequent National Anthem-singer Lee Greenwood, who proudly remarks #IWillAlwaysStand. They haven’t posted to Facebook since the NRA’s Car and Truck Show last weekend, which took place before the shooting.
Country music and the NRA have been inextricably linked for years—but what exactly is NRA Country? According to the about page on their website, it’s a “celebration of American values. Respect. Honor. Freedom.” (And guns, don’t forget about guns.) They host annual celebrity skeet shoots, hold benefit concerts, and host firearm safety programs.
But their primary reason for existence, as Rolling Stone points out in a recent feature, is the Featured Artist of the Month campaign:
“The sponsorship encourages country artists to have their name associated with the NRA in exchange for the advertising of an artist’s new album amongst the promotional channels of the NRA, which boasts millions of dues-paying members.”
Rolling Stone notes that a few major artists have quietly disappeared from the website’s list of musicians who have participated in the sponsorship program. On Monday, Florida Georgia Line and Thomas Rhett were included on the list; by Thursday, they were nowhere to be found, and their publicists confirmed to Rolling Stone that they have no current association with the NRA. Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton, who hosted the annual skeet shoot in 2011 and 2012 and has been highly outspoken about gun ownership rights, also quietly disappeared from the list following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
Of course, removing your name from the NRA website isn’t as extreme as, say, calling out the organization for “fund[ing] domestic terrorism,” as Roseanne Cash put it in her New York Times op-ed. As one executive tells Billboard, speaking out in favor of gun control would be “career suicide” for country artists. Quietly disappearing from the NRA website doesn’t alienate a fanbase, nor does it erase an artist’s past promotional material for an organization that prevents sensible gun law reform at any and all costs. As always, it seems like nothing will change in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, and that’s a shame.