After he agreed to participate in the Concert Against Campus Carry, Barclay Martin gave the issue of firearms and gun violence some considerable and deliberate thought.
The concert has been organized by Rabbi Moti Rieber, the executive director of the Kansas Interfaith Action in Lawrence. It was motivated by legislation that, as of July 1, 2017, will allow students at all six state universities and dozens of community colleges in Kansas to carry concealed weapons on campus.
The concert is part of a larger series of music events that will take place Sunday in conjunction with the Concert Across America to End Gun Violence. More than 350 events will be held in nearly four dozen states, plus a show in London. The flagship U.S. show is in New York, where Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn and Eddie Vedder will perform at the Beacon Theatre.
The Barclay Martin Ensemble will perform at Liberty Hall in Lawrence along with Victor & Penny and the Lawrence band Minimal Animal. The show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Proceeds go to the campaign against the concealed carry legislation.
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Other local performances have been scheduled, including a free show at the American Jazz Museum, featuring Lisa Henry, AZ-ONE and others.
Martin wrote a song for the occasion, but it addresses a perspective beyond gun legislation, an issue that arouses passions on both sides.
“The first thing to be recognized, for me, is that so many people are losing their lives to gun violence,” he said. “That was the real motivation. Those are the facts, and I believe it’s important to recognize that.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about the whole conversation about gun violence and honoring the Constitution. One of the things I think that is increasingly polarizing in this political climate is there seems to be only a place at the extremes.
“What makes the most sense to me is that, at the root of it, a lot of people are afraid on both sides. And I get that — that people feel threatened and want to protect their homes and their families and possessions and want the ability to defend themselves. I think it’s important to recognize the fear that motivates that.
“On the other side, people feel uncomfortable with weapons around. They don’t feel safer, they feel threatened by them. That is also, at its root, fear. What I’ve realized is that these two groups, as their passionate words are flying, are motivated by the same thing: fear.”
The song is called “Silencer,” and at the heart of its message is how fear is such a primary and polarizing component in the debate.
“This can be an intimidating conversation for me, and as I was approaching it, I asked myself why it felt so intimidating, why I felt so threatened simply by saying: ‘We are killing each other and the loss of human life is tragic no matter where you stand on the issue.’ So we should all ask ourselves, ‘Can we do better as a society?’
“A lot of people may feel threatened by the presence of firearms, like me. I’m not comfortable around guns. But I recognize they’re part of the Constitution. I get that, and it’s important to honor that. But I also think a lot of people are intimidated by this conversation so they say nothing and do nothing.
“So the lyrics of the song express how violence silences everyone, whether it be silenced through being subjected to the violence or silenced by your fear of speaking up.”
If there is a middle ground in the issue, Martin said, it should be recognition that too many people are dying and that reducing deaths by firearms ought to be a common goal, one reached through civil debate.
“We need to recognize the humanity on both sides of the issue and recognize the reasons why this is such a passionate issue,” he said. “Both sides are afraid of something really fundamental. And it should be addressed respectfully and in the spirit of understanding each other as we express our opposing opinions and fears.”
The Concert Against Campus Carry begins at 7 p.m. Sunday at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. in Lawrence. The Barclay Martin Ensemble, Victor & Penny and Minimal Animal will perform. Tickets are $20 through Ticketmaster.com. A student discount is available. Proceeds go to the Kansas Interfaith Action campaign against campus concealed carry legislation.