Billboard, easily the most recognizable name in the music publishing industry, has put together something they are calling an “Open Letter to Congress” on the matter of gun control, and, to no one’s surprise, the publication was able to claim nearly 200 signatures of musicians, various other celebrities, and industry executives in support of the letter. The mass murder at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12 by self-proclaimed ISIS loyalist Omar Mateen appears to be the principal catalyst for the Billboard effort, although Billboard’s website also mentions the murder of singer Christina Grimmie the night before…also at an Orlando club…as a reason for its decision to write the letter.
There are a great number of instantly-recognizable names affixed to the communication, names like Barbra Streisand, Billy Joel, Ellen DeGeneres, and Paul McCartney, and the cover of this week’s edition of Billboard magazine is configured to feature the letter in its entirety.
What follows is the body of the missive:
- As leading artists and executives in the music industry, we are adding our voices to the chorus of Americans demanding change.
- Music always has been celebrated communally, on dancefloors and at concert halls. But this life-affirming ritual, like so many other daily experiences—going to school or church or work—now is threatened, because of gun violence in this country.
- The one thing that connects the recent tragedies in Orlando is that it is far too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on guns.
- We call on Congress to do more to prevent the gun violence that kills more than 90 Americans every day and injures hundreds more, including:
- Require a background check for every gun sale
- Block suspected terrorists from buying guns
- Billboard and the undersigned implore you—the people who are elected to represent us—to close the deadly loopholes that put the lives of so many music fans, and all of us, at risk.
Critics of the letter see it as a publicity stunt, pointing out that Pulse nightclub shooter Mateen and alleged Grimmie killer Kevin Loibl both passed background checks for their weapons. As for the mandate to stop “suspected terrorists” from buying guns, many have suggested that if people on “no-fly” lists and other similar kinds of blacklists are really a threat, they should simply be arrested, deported, or otherwise dealt with in such a way that does not risk infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding U.S. citizens.
Also not lost on critics of Billboard’s campaign is the fact that each of the letter’s celebrity signatories is privileged to live in a personal world that largely insulates him or her from the sort of threats of random street violence that plague those of us who make up the “Great Unwashed.”
No word if Billboard is planning to pen another “open letter to Congress” that demands the leadership of the U.S. do more to protect its citizens from the threat posed by radical Islam.
By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large