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Billy Currington drops out of Tim McGraw’s Sandy Hook concert after gun-rights advocate backlash

(screenshot from Twitter)

(Updated Thursday night with news of Currington dropping out of the concert.)

After several days of critical backlash by gun-rights advocates over a Tim McGraw concert to benefit a Sandy Hook charity, opening act Billy Currington has dropped out of the show.

Earlier this week, McGraw announced plans to headline a show this summer in Hartford, Conn., called the Concert for Sandy Hook Promise. According to the singer, all proceeds will benefit a non-profit organization that carries out “a mission of protecting children from gun violence.” The organization was created after the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

McGraw and Currington, along with fellow opener Chase Bryant, all received some heavy criticism from gun-rights advocates after the announcement, especially as blog posts with the following headlines appeared:

“Country Singers Tim McGraw, Billy Currington Headlining Gun Control Fundraiser”

“Tim McGraw Concert To Benefit Anti-Gun Group”

“Tim McGraw Poised To ‘Dixie Chick’ Himself With Gun Control Benefit Concert”

It turned into a typical social media flood, but the reaction wasn’t all negative — many also applauded the singers and jumped in to clarify that it was not, in fact, an anti-gun concert. The concert benefits the community affected by the devastating tragedy in which 20 children and six teachers were shot and killed. McGraw’s fiddle player, Dean Brown, is a close friend of Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed in the attack.

Though McGraw released a statement reiterating that he supports gun ownership but also gun responsibility and safety, Currington posted a note to his Facebook page on Thursday night that confirmed he would not play the show in Hartford, scheduled for July 17. Currington and Bryant are currently both part of the line-up for McGraw’s summer tour, which runs June 5 through Sept. 19.

“I’ve never been one to take on controversial issues — I’m a singer. I do feel strongly about honoring and supporting the Sandy Hook community and will be making a donation to a local organization,” Currington wrote. “I appreciate people’s freedom and passion for whatever cause they want to support, however, I am choosing to step aside from this fundraiser and will focus instead on the rest of the tour dates as I look forward to being on the road with Tim and Chase and having a blast with all of the fans.”

For some context: Hartford was previously listed as a tour stop for McGraw earlier this year, though there wasn’t a date announced until this week — so it appears the concert was already on the schedule and later turned in to the Sandy Hook Promise benefit. According to a now-deleted tweet allegedly sent by Currington that was making the rounds on Twitter, it seems that Currington was not aware that the Hartford concert would benefit the Sandy Hook non-profit. (Currington’s publicist did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

On Thursday, McGraw released a statement to The Washington Post clarifying any misinformation about his motivations behind the concert:

“Let me be clear regarding the concert for Sandy Hook given much of the erroneous reporting thus far.  As a gun owner, I support gun ownership,” he said. “I also believe that with gun ownership comes the responsibility of education and safety — most certainly when it relates to what we value most, our children.  I can’t imagine anyone who disagrees with that.”

“Through a personal connection, I saw first-hand how the Sandy Hook tragedy affected families and I felt their pain. The concert is meant to do something good for a community that is recovering,” he added.

[A Twitter troll is harassing the family of a Sandy Hook victim, and it took 24 hours to help]

As angry comments streamed into McGraw’s Facebook page and Twitter mentions, veteran country singer Travis Tritt initially jumped into the social media fray; though he later retweeted another link that clarified the story. The National Rifle Association also got involved (though that tweet was deleted):

A sample of other tweets:

Some also called out the “hypocrisy” of McGraw’s tour name, which is the “Shotgun Rider” tour. “Shotgun Rider” is the title of McGraw’s latest single — all about how he’s in love with the woman riding “shotgun” in the passenger seat.