Part 2 of a 2-part article. Read Part 1 HERE.
Jason Statts, an artist and heavy metal fan, was robbed and shot five years ago while leaving his band’s first show. The attack left him confined to a wheelchair, and coping with daily pain. But if one were to ask him whether he believed such shootings were inspired by art and entertainment, it’s doubtful he would say yes. Rather, his love for heavy metal music has kept him hopeful and positive. Statts is a survivor – one of the many victims of gun violence in America.
Misunderstood forms of music have too often been cited for inspiring violent behavior. Lately, artists who themselves have been victims are deciding to set the record straight.
“Music has always been a part of my life,” said Statts. “My parents were both hippies, so there were always classic rock albums around the house. As I got older I started listening to heavy music. … Fast forward to the summer of 2008. I was in a band with two of my best friends. We played our first and only show on June 28. Just hours after we unplugged, we were attacked. I’d never walk again; at least, that’s what they say.
“The only thought of music at this point was the thought that I’d never play it again. I was devastated.”
When people suggest that aggressive music turns people into killers, said musician Henry Rollins, “I think that’s wrong. I go to a festival with 80,000 metalheads called Wacken. It’s a huge festival in Germany. These people are some of the friendliest, most intellectual, help-you-out-of-a-ditch types.”
He believed that part of the problem is “we Americans are not treating each other as well as we should.” He suggested that the gun violence argument has dissolved into finger-pointing and squabbling, rather then concentrating on the important issues. “You can’t sweep [issues] under the rug, not in a country that goes to the rest of the world and claims to be an exceptional example.” Instead of vilifying, he said, “you need to look at more than just music and Call of Duty.
“People who blame heavy metal and video games are half-informed. Sandy Hook” and other cases of recent mass shootings simply exacerbate that condition amongst those critics, he noted. “This is when you really wish Abraham Lincoln was around; someone who could say, ‘everyone stop shouting, let’s sit down and'” take a closer look at the problems.
Today, Jason Statts said, “I’m doing well. Aside from agonizing pain 24/7, things are great. I’m considered a quadriplegic, but have a nice range of movement in my arms. I still use my hands. [But] I’ll probably not walk again and I will have ongoing medical costs.” But music, he said, was not the enemy. The bands and albums he loved helped him overcome the tragedy, and continue to make him happy.
The answer to stopping gun violence lies in holding the National Rifle Association accountable for its profiteering and refusal to address the concerns over usage of assault weapons. It lies in setting standards for the gun industry and introducing the concepts of “responsible gun sales and ownership.” It does not lie in the condemnation of music that brings people together, because within those communities, there are also victims of mass shootings. And if those shooters sought to maim or kill those musicians, then another question must be asked: what inspired them?
Photo: Fans place flowers at a makeshift memorial for guitarist Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott outside the Alrosa Villa concert venue where the musician was shot and killed. Paul Vernon/AP