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Rosanne Cash on California Shootings: ‘We Use Young People as Collateral Damage for the Second Amendment’

Rosanne Cash, who has been frequently outspoken about gun control issues in recent years, isn’t being shy about speaking up again in the wake of the mass shootings in Thousand Oaks, California, near where she grew up as the daughter of Johnny Cash.

“Step back and take the wide view and see that we have a systemic problem in this country,” she said in an interview with the Atlantic that took place the day after the tragedy. “These were college kids, right? We use young people as collateral damage for the Second Amendment, and it’s wrong.”

She added, “Shootings like Las Vegas happen in the equivalent of a musician’s office. That’s where we work. So for people to say, ‘Shut up and sing; you don’t have a right to talk about this’: Well, it affects us. This Thousand Oaks shooting happened just 15 miles from where I grew up in Ventura, California. To read that some of the survivors also survived Las Vegas, it’s incomprehensible — the trauma these people have endured.”

Both massacres were direct hits on the country music fan base, which she also takes personally, as country music royalty and as someone who had her own run of major country hits in the 1980s — although she cautions that “in some ways, I’m persona non grata in country music. The Americana community has embraced me; I love country music and used to be part of the mainstream, but not anymore. So I can’t pretend to speak for country artists or that community. artists or that community.” Nonetheless, she used the good will she still enjoys among that artist and fan base as occasion to write an op-ed for the New York Times after the Las Vegas shootings last year, titled “Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A.”

Asked by the Atlantic if any mainstream country artists had taken her up on that offer, she responded, “No. There’s a lot of fear. Particularly from younger artists who know the blowback they’ll get. Look at the blowback Taylor Swift got for just telling people to vote. I’ve gotten threats for speaking out. Like I said in the op-ed, people wanted to kill us because we spoke out against gun violence. There’s a level of insanity that’s taken root.”

As she often is, Cash was asked to defend her father’s legacy against the idea held by a lot of pro-gun conservatives that he was one of them. “Oh, it’s so ridiculous, and I never use him to support my own agenda,” she said. “But he was on the advisory board of PAX, the anti-gun-violence-against-children organization. So, come on. He had hunting rifles and antique Remingtons, but he didn’t have an arsenal of military weapons, and he never believed in that.”

Cash pointed out that she served for a decade on the board of PAX, which “was devoted to protecting children from gun violence. And I met grieving parent after grieving parent until it was crushing me. These secret pockets of the deepest suffering imaginable are scattered throughout the country, and you can go your whole life without knowing they exist. When a child is killed by random gun violence, it shatters so many lives, from the parent to the family to the extended family to the school to the city. The suffering is multigenerational.”
Cash’s latest album, “She Remembers Everything,” includes a collaboration with Elvis Costello and Kris Kristofferson on “8 Gods of Harlem,” a song about a child who falls victim to gun violence.

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