As country stars celebrated the ACM Awards' return to its Las Vegas home after a two-year relocation to Nashville due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was also something heavier on their minds. It was in Vegas that the deadliest mass shooting by an individual shooter took place, at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival.

Jason Aldean was onstage as the headlining performer that night, on Oct. 1, when gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire from the window of his 32nd-floor suites at the nearby Mandalay Bay hotel, killing 60 concertgoers and injuring hundreds more.

In the years since, Aldean and many other country stars have opened up about the trauma of the event, expressing messages of support and healing toward the victims. At the 2022 ACM Awards, he reflected on his lasting connection to Las Vegas' history, acknowledging that he feels more closely connected to the city after the tragic massacre.

"It's not quite the way I wanted to be attached to the city by any means, but I do feel a special connection to the city, more so since Route 91," Aldean told press. "I enjoy coming back here, man. I always have a great time being here. Some of the highlights of my career happened in this town, and at this particular show [The ACM Awards.] So I have a lot of great memories from here.

"With the exception of that one time, it's always been great," he added. Aldean went on to say that he continues to hold a place in his heart for the tragedy, and he'll never forget that devastating moment or the lives lost in its aftermath.

"It's something we think about a lot, and probably always will," he notes, "But I feel like for me personally, I'm kind of at peace with everything. I just try to move on and make the best of a bad situation. That's all I can do, I feel like."

Aldean's not the only country star permanently affected by the tragedy at Route 91. After the event, multiple artists spoke out in support of increased gun control legislation. The Route 91 shooting brought attention to U.S. gun laws, specifically regarding bump stocks, which Paddock used to fire shots more rapidly. In 2018, bump stocks were banned by the U.S. Justice Department.

The event affect artists' music, too. In 2020, Eric Church dedicated his song "Through My Ray-Bans" to concertgoers affected by the shooting. At the 2022 ACMs, Chris Stapleton performed "Watch You Burn," a track off his 2020 Starting Over album, which was inspired by his grief and rage in the wake of the shooting.

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