Although not all of them could make it through the entire performance — some, visibly distressed, left midway through, carrying signs in honor of lost loved ones — it was an evening ultimately devoted to the enduring strength of Paris itself.
Jesse Hughes, the band’s frontman, held up a shirt at one point that read: “Live for Paris.” As he told the audience: “You’re stuck with me: I’m Parisian now.”
That would make Hughes only the latest in a long line of Americans who have proclaimed — following famous words of the expatriate writer Gertrude Stein — that “America is my country, and Paris is my home town.” But the rock musician’s outspoken political opinions, specifically on the question of gun control, run the risk of alienating him from fellow denizens of the City of Light.
In an interview with the French TV station iTélé, Hughes, a National Rifle Association supporter and gun enthusiast, had the following to say on the subject: “I’ll ask you: Did your French gun control stop a single [expletive] person from dying at the Bataclan? And if anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so.” As he continued: “It just seems like God made men and women, and, that night, guns made them equal. Maybe until nobody has guns, everybody has to have them.”
In an interview with Le Parisien, his remarks were slightly more neutral: “I support the right of all to carry a weapon to defend themselves,” he said. “Arms help people defend themselves, no?” As elsewhere in Europe, firearms are heavily regulated in France. But perhaps Hughes’s unwavering stance comes from an originalist interpretation of “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem of his newfound community, which explicitly exhorts citizens “aux armes.”
He, at least, has answered that call. As he told iTélé: “I can’t let the bad guys win.”