Tim McGraw Sandy Hook concert
Country music star Tim McGraw has seen a support act billed for a benefit concert he organized in support of a Sandy Hook charity drop out, following online criticism from gun-rights activists. Getty Images

Country music star Billy Currington announced Thursday that he will not participate in a benefit concert for non-profit group Sandy Hook Promise, following online backlash from gun-rights advocates, who argue that the group is dedicated to restricting Second Amendment rights.

Country star Tim McGraw, who has organized the concert due to be held in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 17, will headline the show, with Currington and Chase Bryant as supporting acts. However, since the concert was announced earlier this week, McGraw and the other acts have been on the receiving end of online criticism from opponents of gun control.

Conservative website Breitbart described the concert as a “gun control fundraiser,” adding that “Sandy Hook Promise is a vehicle through which various relatives of Sandy Hook victims have joined to push gun control until it passes.”

Other conservative websites described Sandy Hook Promise as an “anti-gun group,” or likened McGraw to the Dixie Chicks, the country music group that sparked boycotts from fans after criticizing then-president George W. Bush, just prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Much, though not all, of the reaction to the concert on social media was negative.

Sandy Hook Promise describes its mission as being to “protect children from gun violence so no other parent experiences the loss of their child.”

In a statement on his Facebook page, Currington said: “I've never been one to take on controversial issues - I'm a singer. I do feel strongly about honoring and supporting the Sandy Hook community and will be making a donation to a local organization.

“I appreciate people's freedom and passion for whatever cause they want to support, however, I am choosing to step aside from this fundraiser and will focus instead on the rest of the tour dates as I look forward to being on the road with Tim and Chase and having a blast with all of the fans.”

In a statement to the Washington Post, McGraw said: “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.