Scooter Braun, manager of Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber and the key organizer of last year’s One Love Manchester concert, was awarded the Harry Chapin humanitarian award at the Music Biz conference in Nashville today. He is also an outspoken supporter of gun control and had a big presence during March for Our Lives last month. During an onstage chat with CNN commentator and former RIAA chief Hillary Rosen after the award presentation, Rosen asked him about gun control, comparing the situation to the music industry’s work in finding treatment for AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s, and how it was an “unsafe place” for artists to be involved at that time.
“Now, it feels to me like the most unsafe place for artists is guns,” she said to Braun. “The last time I saw you was a couple of weeks ago at March for Our Lives. I watched those Parkland kids with you and how they looked up to you and they saw how they can change the world. And they wanted you to show them how to do that.”
“We’re going there!” Braun said. “I’m not really afraid of having this conversation. I’m actually glad I’m having it in Nashville. I want to be really clear on a few things so that we can actually hear each other for the people in this room who think they disagree with me. I’m a gun owner. I have no issue with people in this country owning guns. I have no issue with people driving a car. I think we should be qualified for both.”
“Do you think [attitudes are] changing?,” Rosen asked.
“This is my opinion. I want to be really clear: I haven’t met one artist or friend who has guns who doesn’t agree with me once we actually have a conversation. What happened in Vegas was horrendous and awful, and for everybody in this town who has the voices and has the ear of so many people — who can make a difference in this issue and who live in states who can make a difference —Columbine was 20 years ago. Our kids have grown up in a community where shootings in schools is a regular thing. We think it’s new — it’s been 20 years. I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old — if it’s another 20 years, we have failed miserably. If it’s five years we have failed miserably. And those kids put on the biggest march in U.S. history and nothing has happened — not a damn thing, and no one’s talking about that.
“I know in this town a lot of artists are afraid to come out and have this conversation. My question for you is, is selling records important? Yes. But if you really want to be historic, if you want to be that artist, understand that these kids are 20 years away from being the next leaders, and they are going to change [gun laws]. It is just a matter of time. If you want to be on the right side of history, help them. They don’t want to take away guns. They just want to make it so that someone who isn’t qualified can’t get them. And the problem is we keep not changing anything and we keep having these shootings in our schools, and I don’t know what’s wrong with people. It’s our kids! And when Emma [Gonzales, who stood silent onstage at the March for Our Lives for the amount of time the Parkland shooter was active] went silent for all that time — imagine if that was your kid in a closet being silent because [a gunman] came into their school.
“So what I’m asking is for the entire community to now come up and say something. And make it very clear: This is not about taking away guns. It’s about making sure that if someone has a gun in their hand, they understand what is in their hand. And what our military says, these weapons were not made for citizens — if you need an assault weapon to hunt, you’re a sh—y hunter! (Applause)
“This town could really make a difference. And I know there are a lot of people in this town who were nervous to do something after Las Vegas — and I get it. You’re trying to feed your family, I get it. But go to the local university, go down to Belmont [University] and talk to these kids and ask them what they’re going to do in 20 years, and find out what side of history you’re going to be on. And if you actually listen to these kids you might have the bravery to do something and be on the right side of history. This is a simple one — our kids shouldn’t be scared in schools.
“I already know what the naysayers are going to say, so I’m going to make this really, really clear: mental health is a part of this issue. People want to say it’s about guns and they argue that the two issues are mutually exclusive, it’s not: We need to address mental health and we need to deal with this gun issue we need to be not afraid to have this conversation. I was with Emma Gonzales yesterday: We had hamburgers at my house, she is a sweetheart, her friend is dead. Cameron’s [Kasky, outspoken Parkland student] dad is a cop, he grew up with guns. These kids in Chicago and neighborhoods here and all over the country — it just needs to stop. I’ve got friend who are so stupid I barely want them driving or drinking beer. I don’t trust them with anything! A crazy person? I’ve got buddies who I’d say, “That dude shouldn’t have a gun.”
“I’ll put it on the spot, the problem is that people haven’t wanted to stand up. This is Nashville: If you join me and agree that there should be serious, serious background checks for guns, and you agree with that and you’re willing to start making a vocal stance on that, please stand up. (APPLAUSE) You guys can actually do something for this town.”