UNDER THE GUN (doc, 2016)

under the gun Greetings again from the darkness. Filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig and journalist Katie Couric, who brought us the 2014 documentary Fed Up about childhood obesity, re-team to deliver a “20/20” type presentation billed as a “balanced look at the gun debate”.  It’s a polarizing topic and we hear from the families of victims, experts in the field, and gun rights advocates.  Supplemented by some startling statistics, it seems incomprehensible that some common ground has yet to be found.

The opening credits play over a video timeline of gun law highlights and news clips of shooting events such as Martin Luther King, Jr, Bobby Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. It then hits us with the first mind-numbing stat … during the run time of the film, 22 people will be shot in America, and 6 will die. It’s at this point where we realize the “balanced” approach is really not likely since it’s an emotional debate as much as (or more) than an intellectual one. It’s the stricter gun law faction vs. Second amendment purists.

There is simply no comparison to the personal stories of parents who have had a child killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut or at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Regardless of where you stand on gun rights, these stories are heart-breaking and devastating. There is also a segment with Gabby Giffords, who is still recovering from her 2011 gunshot wounds, and along with her husband astronaut Mark Kelly, has joined the fight for gun control laws. ( sidenote: It did seem odd that Kelly’s rip of the Cub Scouts made the final cut).

Much of the film is spent on the issues of background checks and the infamous Gun Show loophole. It’s here that we begin to understand the strength of the NRA. Founded in 1871, the NRA was originally designed to fine-tune the “aim” of those wishing to shoot firearms. It is now a political powerhouse and one of the most pervasive lobbyists in Washington, DC. The film is quite fair in distinguishing between the NRA senior executives, and the rank-and-file members who are fed a steady dose of propaganda that borders on fear-mongering. Though most NRA members stand in favor of background checks to prevent felons, terrorists, and the underage from obtaining fire arms, the NRA continues to preach that ‘they are going to take away your guns’ and that ‘it takes a good guy with a gun to defeat a bad guy with a gun’.

It doesn’t seem that the filmmakers set out to change anyone’s mind on the topic, but rather to highlight the importance of some type of compromise or common ground in light of the 32,000 people who die in America from gunshots each year. And seriously, does it make sense that there are more gun stores in the U.S. than McDonalds and Starbucks combined? The most honest and direct moment of the film comes when one of the parents of a victim states, “we don’t want your sorry’s or prayers … we want your action.”

watch the trailer:


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