Many people and organizations (e.g., the NRA) have been blasting Tim McGraw ever since he announced that the proceeds from his concert in Hartford, Connecticut on July 27, 2015 would be donated to Sandy Hook Promise, both a charitable foundation and a lobbying organization that was formed after the mass murder of school children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. In light of the continuing controversy eleven families whose children were murdered in that tragedy have now deemed it necessary to announce they have no affiliation with Sandy Hook Promise and McGraw’s concert.

“Our decision to publicly address this matter is not related to a position regarding any of the complex issues surrounding our tragedy, as recent news reports have suggested (i.e. the gun debate, mental health, etc.),” the families said. “We wish only to provide clarification for the many generous donors that believe they are directly supporting the families at the center of this tragedy by contributing to the Sandy Hook Promise origination.”

Okay, that’s fine, if clarification is needed. However, I fear the strong and vehement reaction to McGraw’s concert for Sandy Hook Promise by a very vocal minority on social media may have weighed heavily in their decision to go public at this time.

But let us at consider these families’ stated reason for issuing this statement now. Has Sandy Hook Promise stated that the monies from the concert would go to directly support the families of victims? Has Tim McGraw? Well, let’s try to find out.

Here’s the official announcement from McGraw’s own website:

Tim McGraw has announced that on July 17, 2015 at XFINITY Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, he will headline a Concert for Sandy Hook Promise. One-hundred percent of the net proceeds of this special event will benefit Sandy Hook Promise, an organization founded in the wake of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with a mission of protecting children from gun violence.

Tickets for “Tim McGraw: A Concert for Sandy Hook Promise” go on sale this Friday, April 17, 2015 at 10 a.m. through LiveNation.com and Ticketmaster. Charge By Phone 800-745-3000. Featured performers will include current tour mates Billy Currington and Chase Bryant, along with special surprise guests to be announced later.

“Out of this tragedy a group was formed that made a promise to honor the lives lost and turn it into a moment of transformation,” said McGraw. “Sandy Hook Promise teaches that we can do something to protect our children from gun violence. I want to be a part of that promise – as a father and as a friend.”

This cause is close to Tim’s heart, as it is to the fiddle player in his touring band, Dean Brown, a longtime friend to Mark Barden, a musician and father of a child, who was killed in the 2012 tragedy. “I look forward to being a part of a night of hope and promise and music that will help continue the great work that Sandy Hook Promise is doing,” said Brown.

“We are humbled that Tim would do this for us,” said Barden. “Dean and his wife Cindy helped my wife and I through our darkest hour and helped buoy our spirits. It meant more than words could ever say.”

In that announcement, it also says, regarding Sandy Hook Promise, that:

Sandy Hook Promise is led by family members who lost loved ones in the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and parents from the community. Our sole purpose is to protect children from gun violence by providing and empowering parents and communities with mental wellness and gun safety programs that help identify, intervene and stop at-risk individuals from hurting themselves or others so no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.

That is a true statement. Two parents of children who were gunned down at the Newtown school have leadership roles on the staff of the charity: Nicole Hockley is the Communications Director, and Dan Barden, the friend of a member of McGraw’s band, is the Advocacy Director.

Here’s what McGraw said about his participation in support of Sandy Hook Promise after the backlash erupted about his support for a “gun control” group.

“Let me be clear regarding the concert for Sandy Hook given much of the erroneous reporting thus far. As a gun owner, I support gun ownership,” he said. “I also believe that with gun ownership comes the responsibility of education and safety — most certainly when it relates to what we value most, our children. I can’t imagine anyone who disagrees with that.”

“Through a personal connection, I saw first-hand how the Sandy Hook tragedy affected families and I felt their pain. The concert is meant to do something good for a community that is recovering,” he added.

In both cases, McGraw makes no mention of any direct support for the families of the victims. As far as I can tell, neither has the charity. Here’s what they say about the organization on their FAQ page regarding who they represent.

SHP does not represent any family, first responder, teacher, staff or the Newtown / Sandy Hook community at large. SHP sets, with input and direction from employed and participating family and community members, its mission, views, positions and beliefs.

And here’s what they say about the use of the funds received as to the victims families:

Will donations to Sandy Hook Promise be used to help the victims’ families?

Yes – If you donate to the Sandy Hook Promise Community Fund. The Community Fund is a restricted fund of the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, which is a 501(C)(3) tax-exempt public charity. This fund was specifically set up to help the families who lost loved ones, those wounded and others within our community impacted by this tragedy.

And here is what they say about other donations people can make to Sandy Hook Promise that are not used for the victims’ families:

In addition to the SHP Community Fund, there are two additional ways to make financial donations to Sandy Hook Promise.

1. Sandy Hook Promise Foundation is a 501(C)(3) organization. Contributions to the Foundation are tax deductible. Contributions will be used to:

Raise awareness and educate Americans on the causes of gun violence – with a specific focus on mental well-being and gun safety.

Build a national network of Promise Communities committed to implementing local, state and national change via non-policy programs (programs that do not require legislative changes / laws).

Bring experts together in real and virtual roundtables to identify sensible community based solutions, programs and best practices.

Promote and disseminate these programs through our Promise Communities allowing them to take action within family, community (churches, other organizations) and schools. […]

2. Sandy Hook Promise Action Fund is a 501(C)(4) organization. Contributions to the Action Fund are not tax deductible. Contributions will be used to:

Help influence legislation (lobby) for state and federal policy changes, via Promise Communities and individuals who “make the promise”, in the areas of mental well-being and gun safety.

Examples of actions / costs that would be incurred include (not limited to) raising awareness, educating, engaging, meeting with legislators and/or constituents, research and preparation, advertising, paid-media, events, campaigns, social media and/or standard administrative costs.

So, if you donate to a specific fund that is designated to help the families of victims, yes. If not, then no. Again, I see no misrepresentation about the charity or where the money goes. Neither McGraw nor the charity have claimed the concert funds will be used to help the Newtown families, although the charity maintains a dedicated fund to which you could donate that is solely used for helping those families.

I suspect the eleven families who made this announcement may have been intimidated by the venomous response to McGraw’s announcement of a concert on behalf of Sandy Hook. Their own statement distancing themselves from the charity specifically says they take no position on the “gun debate.” Why say that at all if they only want people to be clear that they will not be receiving money from the concert? Maybe this might have some relevance. A lawyer who represented on of the families lawyer received around 50 death threats when he filed notice of an intent to sue the state of Connecticut on their behalf in 2013.

More than 50 people have threatened to harm Irv Pinsky since he filed notice that he plans to sue the state in connection with the Newtown massacre, the New Haven lawyer said Tuesday. […]

Typically someone threatens “shooting,” Pinsky said.

So, what bothers the people who are raging against Tim McGraw’s attack on their 2nd Amendment Rights? What does Sandy Hook do that is so “sinister” in the minds of these folks? Here’s a list of one right wing gun supporter’s objections to Sandy Hook Promise:

The group delivered petitions to New Jersey Governor Chris Cristie, urging him to sign legislation limiting magazines to 10 rounds in the Garden State [True: Nicole Hockley and Mark Barden did release a statement on behalf of Sandy Hook Promise supporting limiting magazines to 10 rounds at the time the petitions were delivered.]

SHP supported the draconian new gun laws in Connecticut [Links to an interview of Governor Malloy and Nicole Hockley regarding the changes to Connecticut’s gun laws, requiring universal background checks for all sales of guns and ammo, limiting magazines to ten rounds and banning certain so-called “assault weapons” including the one Adam Lanza used to murder the Sandy Hook victims. No mention is made of Sandy Hook Promise in that interview.]

SHP’s communications director appeared in an ad for anti-gun Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy [True. Hockley appeared in an ad, though she was not identified as a spokesperson for the charity or as the mother of one of the murdered children.]

SHP was honored by the anti-gun New Yorkers Against Gun Violence [Yes, they were honored by Sandy Hook Promise group, but what is omitted is what they were honored for: “The Families of Sandy Hook Promise will receive the Detective Steven McDonald Law Enforcement Award for their efforts to educate the public about gun violence.”]]

However, Sandy Hook Promise’s mission involves far more than efforts to promote sensible gun regulation. They focus to a large extent on the following (from their website):

Unite, organize and mobilize parents and communities to implement change by establishing, building, training and empowering volunteer led Promise Communities

Implement effective, innovative in-home and community-based prevention programs, practices and training that enable the protection of children from gun violence. Specifically we will offer tools and programs in the areas of mental wellness early-identification & intervention, social & emotional development and firearm safety & security

These include:

Programs that promote and teach gun safety to adults and children.

Programs to help people learn about potential signs that people they know are showing behaviors demonstrating they are mentally unstable and a potential risk of harming themselves or others, and speak up about it.

Teaching children to be more socially accepting and inclusive of those of their peers who have been, for whatever reason, socially isolated or ostracized.

I have difficulty imagining why gun rights advocates would have a problem with these activities. But then I do not advocate that gun owners’ rights under the 2nd amendment are free from all governmental regulation and supersede all other rights or interests of the public at large.

I hope the eleven families of Newtown victims who released their statement indicating they were not going to receive monies from McGraw’s concert fundraiser for Sandy Hook Promise did so solely because of the reasons they stated – confusion over where the funds were going. However, the fact that they took so long to do so supports an inference that such was not the sole basis for why they came forward at this time to make this specific public announcement.

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