HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Tim McGraw is defending his decision to headline a Connecticut concert to benefit a Sandy Hook group, responding to critics who call it a "gun control fundraiser."

Tim McGraw performs at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)

Gun rights advocates took to Facebook and Twitter, calling the country singer a hypocrite for appearing in the event that will benefit Sandy Hook Promise, which seeks to protect children from gun violence.

Opening act Billy Currington withdrew and said on his Facebook page he's "never been one to take on controversial issues."

McGraw said in a statement to The Washington Post Thursday he supports gun ownership, but it requires education and safety. He said the concert is intended to help the community.

McGraw will perform at the XFINITY Theatre in Hartford, Connecticut, on July 17.

In December 2012, 20 first-graders and six educators were fatally shot in Newtown.

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