UPDATE: Jay Leno has announced that he has cancelled his scheduled speech to the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s 2015 SHOT Show in Las Vegas. Leno told Po Murray of the Newtown Action Alliance (who is quoted in the article below) that he was unaware that the NSSF was a pro-gun lobbying group.
America’s epidemic of gun violence is no laughing matter, but comedian Jay Leno—former host of the “Tonight Show”—has nevertheless agreed to perform at the 2015 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show on behalf of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the gun industry. Leno is scheduled to speak at the NSSF’s “State of the Industry” dinner on January 20, 2015 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. The group’s website claims that tickets for the event are “going fast.”
Ironically, the NSSF is headquartered in Newtown, Connecticut, only three miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where six adults and 20 first-grade children were killed in a mass shooting in December 2012.
Leno, who hosted the late-night program for 22 seasons, has never previously voiced public support for the NSSF or the gun lobby. In fact, during a November 2013 “Tonight Show” interview with conservative Senator Ted Cruz, Leno questioned the Texas politician about his opposition to stricter gun-control policies. “Why is increased background checks not a good thing?” Leno asked. “No one is saying you can’t have guns; you just have to pass a background check. Why is that bad?” He told Cruz that without stronger laws, “a complete psychopath can go to a gun show and buy half a dozen guns.”
The Newtown Action Alliance, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and the Campaign to Unload are circulating an online petition asking Leno to cancel his SHOT Show appearance.
“Mr. Leno should not be acting as a pitchman for an industry that has disrespected gun violence survivors and stonewalled attempts to prevent future shooting tragedies,” said Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “We’re asking him to reconsider his promotion of the remorseless gun lobby.”
Po Murray, chair of the Newtown Action Alliance, which was formed after the Sandy Hook shooting, said she was “shocked” to learn that Leno was speaking at the SHOT Show. “I figured he didn’t know what they stand for,” said Murray, who lives in the same Newtown neighborhood where Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, once lived; her four children previously attended the school. “We hope our petition will convince Mr. Leno to be reasonable and cancel his speech.”
Murray said her group is going to invite Leno to come to the national vigil for victims of gun violence at the Washington National Cathedral on December 11.