Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, announced in January that she would retire from her anti-gun group sometime this year. Don’t expect a quiet exit as she’s now talking about restricting free speech.
Watts, whose gun control group is controlled by billionaire and former failed gun control presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, took to social media and bragging about her role in forcing a music video network to remove country music star Jason Aldean’s latest hit.
Watts, along with other gun control activists, jumped through hoops to claim Aldean’s song lyrics glorify and encourage the use of firearms to commit acts ofviolence. Hardly the case, but the truth has never mattered when gun control activists push to limit constitutional rights.
Aldean drew Watts’s ire because the lyrics of his song “Try That in a Small Town.” The only reference to a firearm in the song is in the phrase, “Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well, that sh*t might fly in the city, good luck.”
Watts tweeted her outrage at the artist and his lyrics, even referencing that Aldean was performing at the Las Vegas Route 91 music festival in 2017, as if Aldean had anything to do with the fact that a deranged murderer took the lives of 60 innocent Americans.
Watts falsely claimed the lyrics matter-of-factly state, “…how he (Aldean) and his friends will shoot you if you try and take their guns.”
Watts stirred up the online mob against Aldean and pressured Country Music Television to take down the music video of the song. CMT – owned by Paramount – caved and took down the video. Watts took a self-congratulatory victory lap.
“Proud to have a hand in getting CMT to reject this racist and violent song…,” Watts tweeted, linking to a news article about CMT’s decision.
To Aldean’s credit, he’s unbowed and rejected the claims of stoking violence. It turns out standing up to gun control activists like Watts is good for business, beyond being good on principles.
Watts’s move to music censorship isn’t all that surprising and mimics a similar mission creep among the most ardent gun control activists. When they fail to restrict one Constitutionally-guaranteed right, they try to change the rules of the game or go around it completely. When it comes to music lyrics, one example is especially aggravating.
Look no further than California, where Gov. Gavin Newsom praised legislation he signed into law last year. At the time, the governor hosted a video bill signing for AB 2799 and was joined by several hip-hop artists. The bill, titled the Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act, prevents prosecutors from using violent and descriptive rap music lyrics in criminal court cases against criminals who have broken the law.
In addition, AB 2799 requires “a court, in a criminal proceeding where a party seeks to admit as evidence a form of creative expression, to consider specified factors when balancing the probative value of that evidence against the substantial danger of undue prejudice.”
“Artists of all kinds should be able to create without the fear of unfair and prejudicial prosecution,” Gov. Newsom said. “California… is taking a nation-leading role to protect creative expression and ensure that artists are not criminalized under biased policies.”
In contrast to Aldean’s innocuous lyrics, while there certainly is plenty of non-violent rap music, it is no secret that much of it also contains violent, descriptive language. Violent crimes are often bragged about, including criminal firearm misuse against law enforcement.
Earlier this year, the governor signed a different piece of legislation into law that criminalizes First Amendment freedom of speech by banning firearm advertising “attractive to minors.” That law, AB 2571, prohibits firearm industry businesses, including gun and ammunition manufacturers, distributors, retailers and ranges, “from advertising or marketing any firearm-related product, as defined, in a manner that is designed, intended, or reasonably appears to be attractive to minors.”
State authorities in California are the arbiters determining if an advertisement is “attractive” to minors. Breaking the law could lead to a $25,000 minimum penalty for sponsoring any adult-supervised youth shooting event. That includes the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife’s hunter education and Boy Scouts target shooting merit badge courses.
For Gov. Newsom, Watts and others, they are losing the argument over gun rights and turning their attention to free speech rights. Watts has never crowed about the criminal misuse of firearms portrayed in music videos on other channels.
Listen To This
Watts has no interest in listening to any pro-Second Amendment voice that may oppose her radical gun control views. Her group Moms Demand Action, Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and other gun control industry groups are failing to convince the American people they need more gun control and she’s now changed her tune to censoring free speech.
That effort is a failing one, too. When they push increasing gun control, America continues to vote with their wallets. In June, background checks for firearm sales topped 1 million for nearly four years running. When Watts and others tried to silence free speech as an end run around, Aldean’s video skyrocketed to the top of the charts.
Turns out, no one is tuning into what Watts is broadcasting.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.