Not long before a seemingly endless barrage of bullets shattered lives and shocked the nation, thousands swayed back and forth, belting out the words to “God Bless America.” They held up their cell phones, lights on, as country music stars Big & Rich played through.
The audience in Las Vegas sang along with band members John Rich and Big Kenny.
It was an incredible moment of unity at a polarizing time in American history. It’s also heartbreaking now in retrospect — as the patriotic love between the audience and the band was the calm before the storm in which hundreds of people were injured and nearly 60 people were killed.
"There [was] no politics or religion or race going on [at that concert]," John Rich said Tuesday morning on "The Laura Ingraham Show." "That [was] just Americans loving their country ... just being Americans. There were people there from literally all over North America — Tennessee, Texas, California, Arizona — that I met. The attack on that crowd was an attack on America. It's just a tough thing to get your head around."
Rich was one of the many musicians still in the area when the shooting began. He was at a bar he owns called the Redneck Riviera. Rich was armed with a gun when he heard the shots go off, and the country music star was approached by an off-duty cop and asked if he could hand over the weapon. After seeing identification, Rich complied and he and others hunkered down in the bar.
"I had a Minneapolis police officer off-duty hanging out. He came up to me and he showed me his badge and he says, 'I'm an officer ... and I am not armed for the first time ever, I can't believe it. Are you armed? I said, 'Yes, sir, I am armed.' I have my concealed weapons permit and I said, 'Yes, I am armed.' He said, 'Can I have your firearm so I can hold point on this front door?'" Rich told Fox News on Monday.
He continued, "So I handed over my firearm to him and everybody got behind him for about two hours without flinching. This guy kept a point on that front door just in case somebody came through."
Also with Rich in the bar was singer and outspoken conservative Kaya Jones, who posted a video of the earlier "God Bless America" performance from behind the stage to Twitter.
"All of us in that moment wished we'd had a gun," Jones told Breitbart News about the moment she and others heard shots from outside. "Because in our head was, 'Someone could come through that door, and we only have seven rounds in that gun.' That's the truth."
Jones added she was sad to see the events in Las Vegas politicized so quickly. She said it's important to protect Second Amendment rights in the wake of political attacks because "less guns don't equal less terrorists. And I'm going to keep saying that until everyone understands ... If you have a madman, he'll use a car (as we've seen), or a knife (as we've seen), or a bomb (as we've seen). This is what terror is. It doesn't come in the form of a gun. Guns don't kill people. People kill people. And I'll tell you, the one thing that makes us feel safe is that John Rich had a pistol that he handed to [a policeman]."
Last Modified: October 3, 2017, 1:36 pm