Pop stars call for action on gun control

Billboard Magazine’s letter and petition calling for Congressional action on gun violence has been signed by nearly 200 artists and music executives.
Billboard Magazine’s letter and petition calling for Congressional action on gun violence has been signed by nearly 200 artists and music executives.

Some of the world’s most famous voices spoke out on gun control Thursday morning, as Billboard Magazine released an open letter to Congress calling for action on gun control, signed by almost 200 pop stars and major music executives.

The names on the list come from every generation and genre of music, from DJs Calvin Harris and Diplo to singers Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett, teen idols Selena Gomez and Nick Jonas to punk godfather Iggy Pop and former Beatle Paul McCartney, as well as pop and hip-hop stars such as Lady Gaga, Common, Jennifer Lopez and Alicia Keys. Broadway star and Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda and TV personalities James Corden and Ellen DeGeneres are also on the list.

“As leading artists and executives in the music industry, we are adding our voices to the chorus of Americans demanding change,” reads the letter, which has been posted on Billboard.com and will be the cover of the magazine’s July 2nd issue. “Music always has been celebrated communally, on dance floors 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 statement calls on Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and block suspected terrorists from buying guns.

Billboard deputy editor Isabel Gonzalez-Whitaker says the magazine’s editors came up with the campaign two days after the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early the morning of June 12. That the worst mass shooting in U.S. history took place at a music club, following the murder of The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie the previous evening, as she signed autographs after an Orlando concert, and last November’s massacre at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris during a massive terror attack there, has made the music world feel that a realm for celebration and artistry is being endangered.

“There is this sense and increasing awareness that music venues are considered soft targets for this kind of violence,” Gonzalez-Whitaker said. The upcoming issue will have extensive coverage of the Orlando attacks. “But we wanted to dedicate our efforts and resources to do something more proactive. ... We have an ability to shine a light on this topic, but also have legitimacy in the industry to give a united platform to all these artists.”

One of those artists was Latin pop singer Prince Royce, who lives in Miami and said Thursday that this was the first time he had gotten involved in a political cause.

“I’m not really into politics, but there are some things that are common sense. When something is wrong you gotta speak up about it,” Royce said.

That the singer lives in Miami, that Pulse was a Latin club, and that one of the victims worked on the TV talent show La Voz Kids, on which Royce was a judge, brought the issue close to home for him.

“We’re all affected by this,” he said. “This becomes very personal to me. When you see tragedy happening it’s important to create awareness and be heard and let people know we need change.”

Billboard is working with the national advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety to promote the campaign, and has already sent the letter to Congress. Some politicians, including California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters, who live-streamed Wednesday night’s sit-in calling for a vote on gun control measures in the House of Representatives, have already responded, Gonzalez-Whitaker said.

The artists who signed the letter have tens of millions of social media followers, making them a potentially influential voice in the gun violence debate. On Thursday morning Pearl Jam and Royce, as well as fan clubs for Sia, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, were tweeting about the effort using the hashtag #disarmhate.

“We have the power to reach millions of people,” says Royce, who has more than 44 million followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “I feel a responsibility to put the word out and share this message with my fans.”