January 29, 2023

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Singer-songwriter Don McLean has announced that he’s dropping out from performing at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting this weekend in Houston, saying it would be “disrespectful and hurtful” to perform days after 19 children and two adults were killed in a mass shooting in the state.

McLean, who is best known for his legendary 1971 folk rock anthem “American Pie,” was scheduled to perform Saturday night during the NRA’s Grand Ole Night of Freedom concert. But those plans changed when a gunman, identified by police as Salvador Rolando Ramos, 18, entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex., and started firing on children in the worst mass shooting at an American school in nearly a decade.

“In light of the recent events in Texas, I have decided it would be disrespectful and hurtful for me to perform for the NRA at their convention in Houston this week,” McLean, 76, said in a statement. “I’m sure all the folks planning to attend this event are shocked and sickened by these events as well. After all, we are all Americans.”

The news was first reported by the Portland Press Herald in Maine.

McLean is among a few performers who have announced they will no longer perform at this weekend’s convention. Country and gospel singer Larry Gatlin and Larry Stewart of the country band Restless Heart also said Thursday they were dropping out in response to the shooting at Robb Elementary.

McLean’s exit comes as gunmaker Daniel Defense, which manufactured the rifle used by Ramos in Tuesday’s massacre, appears to have also pulled out of the NRA convention. The NRA’s exhibitor list no longer includes Daniel Defense among the hundreds of gunmakers, firearm parts manufacturers and taxidermists appearing at the convention hall. The booth once claimed by Daniel Defense is now listed only as “the NRA.”

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The NRA’s annual meeting this weekend in Houston, about 275 miles from Uvalde, is the largest gun-lobby gathering this year and comes after cancellations because of the coronavirus pandemic. It will feature talks from a group that includes former president Donald Trump, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

Trump to speak at NRA meeting in Texas days after school shooting

The NRA, which boasts more than 5 million members, is fighting a lawsuit by the New York attorney general accusing its executives of misspending millions of dollars.

Critics have blasted the NRA and Republicans who have accepted millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the organization during their political careers. Nineteen current or recent Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio) and Joni Ernst (Iowa), have taken at least $1 million each in campaign contributions from the NRA during their careers, according to data compiled by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in 2019.

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The NRA tweeted Wednesday that the organization and its members sent their “deepest sympathies” to the families of the victims of “this horrific and evil crime.” The gun-rights organization also noted that the convention would continue and that the NRA would “reflect on these events.”

“Although an investigation is underway and facts are still emerging, we recognize this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal,” the organization tweeted. “As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognize our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure.”

On Thursday, Gatlin said he also was dropping out from performing because of what he cited as the NRA’s “outdated and ill-thought-out positions regarding firearms” in the United States.

“I cannot, in good conscience, perform at the NRA convention in Houston this weekend,” Gatlin, 74, said in a statement. “While I agree with most of the positions held by the NRA, I have come to believe that, while background checks would not stop every madman with a gun, it is at the very least a step in the right direction toward trying to prevent the kind of tragedy we saw this week in Uvalde — in my beloved, weeping TEXAS.”

Gatlin added that while he believes arming teachers would have helped prevent the mass shooting, the NRA needed to do more in light of the shooting in Uvalde.

“My prayers and thoughts go to all who are suffering, and I pray that the NRA will rethink some of its outdated and ill-thought-out positions regarding firearms in AMERICA,” he said. “I’m a 2nd Amendment guy, but the 2nd amendment should not apply to everyone. It’s that simple.”

Stewart echoed Gatlin in his support of the Second Amendment but said the events in Uvalde were too much for him to perform.

“So I have made the decision to pull out as a performer for the NRA convention this weekend, especially given the event is just down the road,” Stewart, 63, said in a statement. “I’m a strong believer in the 2nd Amendment and I know the NRA is a great organization who teaches strict gun safety with a membership of law-abiding citizens who love our country. I just believe this is best for me at this time.”

Among those performers still scheduled to play the NRA’s Saturday event is country music artist Lee Greenwood, whose “God Bless the U.S.A.” became a staple at Trump rallies. Trump confirmed on his social network, Truth Social, that he still plans on speaking at the weekend convention.

“America needs real solutions and real leadership in this moment, not politicians and partisanship,” Trump wrote. “That’s why I will keep my longtime commitment to speak in Texas at the NRA Convention and deliver an important address to America. In the meantime, we all continue to pray for the victims, their families, and for our entire nation — we are all in this together!”

Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.

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