Tim McGraw has issued a statement defending his decision to perform at an upcoming benefit concert for Sandy Hook Promise, even as one of his co-headliners has dropped out of the event.

Sandy Hook Promise is a non-profit organization that was founded by family members who lost loved ones in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2012. According to its website, the group's mission is to "protect children from gun violence so no other parent experiences the loss of their child by engaging and empowering parents and communities with targeted prevention programs in the areas of mental wellness early-identification and intervention, social and emotional development and firearm safety and security."

McGraw became involved with the group because his fiddle player, Dean Brown, is a longtime friend of Mark Barden, a musician who lost a child in the shooting spree.

“Out of this tragedy a group was formed that made a promise to honor the lives lost and turn it into a moment of transformation,” McGraw says. “Sandy Hook Promise teaches that we can do something to protect our children from gun violence. I want to be a part of that promise — as a father and as a friend.”

But that's not the way some gun rights advocates have framed the benefit. McGraw and his fellow headliners, Billy Currington and Chase Bryant, all faced enormous criticism online after conservative website Breitbart.com posted a story titled 'Country Singers Tim McGraw, Billy Currington Headlining Gun Control Fundraiser.' According to that piece, "Sandy Hook Promise is a vehicle through which various relatives of Sandy Hook victims have joined to push gun control until it passes. Newtown father Mark Bearden [sic] joined the group pledging to 'dedicate the rest of his life' to pursuing gun control."

In the wake of several days' worth of social media lashing, Currington announced that he is dropping out of the performance via his Facebook page on Thursday (April 16).

I've never been one to take on controversial issues - I'm a singer. I do feel strongly about honoring and supporting the...

Posted by Billy Currington on Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Washington Post reports that the July 17 concert was originally scheduled as one of a list of tour dates on McGraw's upcoming Shotgun Rider tour, which features Currington and Bryant as his support acts. According to a tweet that Currington first posted, then deleted, he was unaware the date had been changed to a benefit show until the controversy erupted.

McGraw issued a statement of his own to the Post, clarifying his position on the matter.

“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 says. “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.”

He adds, “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."

McGraw is also booked to headline the 2015 Taste of Country Music Festival, as well as Country Jam.

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