The year since hasn’t quite seen a revolution in country’s politics on firearms. Many mainstream artists have stayed vague on the issue, though there have been statements on behalf of gun control from Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Maren Morris, and Jason Aldean, who was performing onstage when the shooting began in Vegas.
Cash is still speaking out. The day after the Thousand Oaks shooting, she tweeted: “12 killed, including the ‘good guy with a gun,’ plus survivors of Las Vegas shooting. We can’t go on like this. I don’t want to hear about thoughts and prayers. I want #GunControlNow.” She followed up with a specific call for a ban on high-capacity magazines.
I spoke with her that same day. This conversation has been edited.
Spencer Kornhaber: I wanted to get a perspective on Thousand Oaks from someone who’s a figurehead in country music and has been vocal about guns.
Rosanne Cash: We should clear up the fact that I’m not a figurehead in country music. In some ways, I’m persona non grata in country music. The Americana community has embraced me; I love country music and used to be part of the mainstream, but not anymore. So I can’t pretend to speak for country artists or that community.
I wish there were more people outspoken about this issue in country music. They all seem afraid to do it because of the blowback, and some of them have sponsorship relationships with the NRA, which is deeply troubling because somehow people have conflated country music, patriotism, and guns. Those threads have to be pulled apart.
Shootings like Las Vegas happen in the equivalent of a musician’s office. That’s where we work. So for people to say, “Shut up and sing; you don’t have a right to talk about this”: Well, it affects us. This Thousand Oaks shooting happened just 15 miles from where I grew up in Ventura, California. To read that some of the survivors also survived Las Vegas, it’s incomprehensible—the trauma these people have endured.
Kornhaber: How do you respond to those who say that guns are part of country music’s identity?
Cash: Look, I don’t vilify all gun owners. I don’t think a responsible citizen shouldn’t have their own handgun or shooting rifle. Most of the men in my family hunt. I don’t have any problem with that. But to be able to have a personal arsenal of military-style weapons is wrong. No civilized society should allow that.
I served for 10 years on the board of this organization [PAX, later renamed and merged with the Brady Campaign] that was devoted to protecting children from gun violence. And I met grieving parent after grieving parent until it was crushing me. These secret pockets of the deepest suffering imaginable are scattered throughout the country, and you can go your whole life without knowing they exist. When a child is killed by random gun violence, it shatters so many lives, from the parent to the family to the extended family to the school to the city. The suffering is multigenerational.
More Info: theatlantic.com