It was a rare allusion to gun violence by a country music artist on a live broadcast
The ACM Awards aired live from Texas on Thursday night in the Dallas suburb of Frisco — located just 12 miles from Allen, Texas, where a gunman killed eight people last weekend at a shopping mall. It was the U.S.’s 199th mass shooting of 2023 and the second-deadliest of the year.
Old Dominion singer Matthew Ramsey was aware of the proximity and alluded to it in his acceptance speech when his band won their sixth Group of the Year title at the ACMs.
“There are people obviously hurting…trying to make sense of divisiveness and shootings and things like that, and there are people that are really hurting right now,” he said, gesturing to the Texas crowd. “We are so proud to be in a room full of country fans and to make music for those people, but we’re most proud to make music for people who are hurting right now.”
At that point in the ACMs, Ramsey was the only artist so far to reference the nearby shooting. At April’s CMT Music Awards — another country-music awards show that was held in Austin — co-host Kelsea Ballerini opened the broadcast by paying tribute to the victims of the Covenant School shooting in Nashville in March. “I pray — deeply — that closeness and community we feel for the next few hours of music can soon turn into action,” Ballerini said. “Like real action, that moves us forward together to create change for the safety of our kids and our loved ones.”
Following the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, some country personalities, who are typically shy about wading into such issues, called for gun reform. “I used to say ‘proud gun owner’; I’m not a proud gun owner. I’m not a proud car driver. I’m just a ‘gun owner’ and a ‘car driver’ because those are normal parts of my life. I don’t need to create my identity because of guns,” country DJ Bobby Bones said, adding that if everyone has the right to own a gun, everyone should also have access to healthcare. “How about providing some free mental health if everybody gets a gun?”