Hours after we posted a story yesterday about Jay Leno headlining a gun group’s annual Shot Show, Leno announced he was canceling his appearance. “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 said in a statement. “There was no money involved at this point, and if there was any, he would return it.” In our original piece, which we’ve printed below, we question why Leno would be involved with a group who condemned stricter gun control laws since Leno had, in the past, seemed to be a supporter of such laws.
Jay Leno will headline the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s annual Shot Show State of the Industry dinner, for which ticket packages run up to $1,250; individual tickets are $115-$135. The stand-up gig goes down Tuesday, Jan. 20 at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, where the yearly annual Shot Show – the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show – brings together 65,000 industry professionals from all 50 states and 100 countries, according to Shot Show organizers.
It’s an interesting move for Leno to book an event that could divide his audience, especially now when the gun control discussion is ongoing and always heated. Leno joins the ranks of Las Vegas ventriloquist Terry Fator and Penn and Teller (who are staunch opponents of new gun control laws) as Shot Show headliners. Though Leno’s fanbase is thought to be older Middle Americans who likely see no need for different gun laws, the fact is when Leno was still hosting The Tonight Show, he strongly challenged politicians like Ron Paul and Ted Cruz about stricter gun control policies. Namely, Leno questioned why the NRA and other gun rights groups opposed so strongly stricter background checks.
“Why is increased background checks not a good thing?” Leno asked Cruz. “Why is keeping the mentally unstable… no one is saying you can’t have guns…you just have to pass a background check. Why is that bad?”
Cruz responds by saying he supports background checks. But then Leno keeps pushing, saying, “The fact that a complete psychopath can go to a gun show and buy half a dozen guns… now, hasn’t your new bill made it easier to go across state lines with guns?”
Cruz then completely ignores the question and instead launches into stats about how George W. Bush prosecuted more gun-related criminals than Barack Obama. Check out the video below.
That’s not to say that Leno, simply because he’s not opposed to stricter gun laws, is anti-gun or anti-gun group. But it does seem he wouldn’t be the ideal choice for Shot Show organizers. Especially since at the most recent Shot Show held this past January, Steve Sanetti, the president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, delivered a passionate speech, condemning the attempts to create stricter gun laws in America.
“Our message of thoughtful criticism of well-meant but ineffective proposals to thwart the lawless elements of our society by heaping even more restrictions upon hunters, target shooters, collectors, and those seeking to lawfully defend their families, has resonated with the American public,” Sanetti said. “Not only has support for these wrongly-directed gun control proposals returned to pre-Newtown levels, but we have seen record numbers of Americans from all walks of life flock to the side of lawful firearms ownership.”
In the end, Leno is still a huge name in Hollywood so maybe the NSSF is happy just to land a powerplayer who doesn’t completely despise the entire concept of gun ownership. But why is Leno doing the gig? He obviously doesn’t need the money. And it’s not like this is a high-profile gig or a feather-in-your-cap type of event, like the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. No. It seems the politically conservative are grooming Leno to become their own Hollywood elite representation – the Dems have plenty of those already – and the former Tonight Show host has gladly accepted their offer.