Jay Leno Cancels Appearance With Newtown-Based Gun Lobby Group, Conservative Media Melts Down

Conservative media are freaking out after Jay Leno canceled an upcoming gig at the gun industry's 2015 trade show, the National Shooting Sports Foundation's (NSSF) SHOT Show, calling the comedian a “coward” who has “no spine.” The NSSF had responded to the deadly 2012 school shooting in the association's hometown of Newtown, CT, by opposing all proposed gun safety measures.

Newtown Group And Other Gun Safety Organizations Successfully Lobby Jay Leno To Cancel His SHOT SHOW Appearance

Newtown Action Alliance: Leno Appearance “Is Helping To Legitimize A Crass Commercialism Which Values Profit Over Human Lives.” A joint statement and petition from Newtown Action Alliance, the Campaign to Unload, and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence issued November 18 called for Leno to cancel his appearance because host NSSF has “lobbied against even the most modest” gun safety initiatives and “has done nothing to reach out to the families whose children were killed in the [Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting], despite the fact that the association is headquartered in Newtown” :

Less than two years after the gruesome mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school, former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno has agreed to perform at the 2015 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show on behalf of the Newtown, Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the gun industry.

Since the shooting, which claimed the lives of six adults and 20 first-grade children, the NSSF has opposed any and all attempts to strengthen U.S. gun laws to prevent future tragedies. The association has accused gun violence prevention advocates of “seeking to destroy the Second Amendment” and lobbied against even the most modest proposals, such as universal background checks for all gun sales, a reform which is supported by 92% of gun owners nationally.

Equally unsettling is the fact that the NSSF has done nothing to reach out to the families whose children were killed in the tragedy, despite the fact that the association is headquartered in Newtown. Instead, NSSF President Steve Sanetti has accused family members who have advocated for tougher gun laws of reacting “emotionally” and irrationally because they are “angry” and “fearful.”

Jay Leno is a nationally-recognized figure who recently received the 17th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. By lending his name to the NSSF, he is helping to legitimize a crass commercialism which values profit over human lives. The SHOT Show is the largest firearms trade show in the world. Its sole purpose is to allow manufacturers to market their wares; and it provides no voice to those whose lives have been destroyed by a loosely-regulated industry. [Newtown Action Alliance, accessed 11/20/14]

Leno Cancels His Appearance: “Of Course I Get It.” In an interview with Mother Jones, Leno said he would not perform, stating, “I understand it's Newtown, and of course I get it. It's just sometimes, mistakes get made.” [Mother Jones, 11/19/14]

Leno Spokesperson: Leno Canceled When He Found Out What He Had Agreed To Support. The Daily News reported:

Jay Leno has cancelled a hosting gig for a pro-gun group headquartered down the road from Sandy Hook Elementary after activists including the daughter of the school's slain principal told him to holster his jokes.

“Jay was asked to do what was positioned as a sportsman show, and when he found out it was a pro gun lobby show, he cancelled,” Leno's spokesman Bruce Bobbins told the Daily News Wednesday night. [New York Daily News, 11/19/14]

Newtown Action Alliance Spokesperson: “I Am Thrilled That Jay Changed His Mind Once He Had Full Information. It Is So Appreciated By Those Of Us In Newtown.” [The Newtown Bee, 11/20/14]

NSSF Statement: Leno Canceled Because Of “Bullying Political Tactics Of The Gun Control Groups.” In a November 19 statement, the gun industry's trade group said it was “clearly disappointed” by Leno's cancellation and attacked groups that called for him to back out, saying that those groups have “little respect” for the First Amendment:

We are clearly disappointed by Jay Leno's decision not to perform at the 2015 SHOT Show State of the Industry Dinner. He unilaterally cancelled his promised appearance due to pressure from the anti-gun lobby, which included false statements about our industry and its commitment to genuine firearms safety, which we attempted to personally correct with him, but to no avail.

We are not deterred by their publicity seeking nor are we unfamiliar with the bullying political tactics of the gun control groups that seem to have as little respect for the First Amendment as they continually demonstrate with regard to the Second Amendment. [NSSF, 11/19/14]

Conservative Media Blasts Leno

National Rifle Association Radio And Television Host Cam Edwards: “You Are A Coward,” Jay Leno. Edwards, host of the NRA radio and television shows both called Cam & Company, issued a series of tweets critical of Leno, labeling him a “coward” and writing that Leno, “a man who makes his living with his mouth and his mind, should tell the speech police to go to hell” :

Edwards: Campaign To Get Leno To Cancel Is A Tactic Of Progressive “Scolds” That Threatens “Free Speech” And “An Open Exchange Of Ideas.”  On his radio show, Edwards framed Leno's decision to cancel his appearance at a private event as a freedom of speech issue. According to Edwards, efforts like the Leno campaign are about “telling people what they can and cannot say and what they can and cannot think” and, “It doesn't get better if you don't have men and women of courage and conviction who are unafraid to speak their mind and willing to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that will be directed towards them while they do so” :

EDWARDS: This is a mindset, a foundational principle, I would say of that portion of the modern progressive movement, whose ideological and intellectual forefathers just a few short decades ago were the champions of free speech and the champions of free thought, but now that they believe that they have -- that they are the dominate cultural force, eh, freedom of thought, freedom of expression far less important than telling people what they can and cannot say and what they can and cannot think. Well it doesn't get better by not standing up to these forces. It doesn't get better if you don't have men and women of courage and conviction who are unafraid to speak their mind and willing to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune that will be directed towards them while they do so. In fact, until we see more and more of those men and women stand up and continue to speak out, we should expect that it will only get worse. How could it otherwise? [NRA News, Cam & Company, 11/20/14]

Fox News' Katie Pavlich: “In Cowardly Move” Leno Folds To “Bloomberg's Anti-Gun Goon Squad.”  In a November 20 article for Townhall.com, Pavlich attacked Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is part of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's Everytown for Gun Safety organization, over the group's call for Leno to cancel. Pavlich also wrote, “It's a shame Leno let dishonest and elitist liberal stooges bully him into bailing out on a great event with some of America's best people.” [Townhall.com, 11/20/14]

Gun Blogger Bob Owens: Leno Is “Big Chin, No Spine.” In a November 20 blog post, Owens wrote that Leno backed out after “relentless bullying” and added, “We hope Mr. Leno will understand if many of the 100 million gun owners in the United States feel that his decision to cave to these bullies who attack our Constitutional rights is no laughing matter.” [Bearing Arms, 11/20/14]

Human Events: Leno Is A “Coward” Who “Caves To Liberal Activists.” [Human Events, 11/20/14]