Monday, May 16, 2016 at 8:43 AM

‘Under the Gun’ Appeals to Common Sense of NRA Members. Good Luck With That…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Eager to convince and assured of its purpose, the advocacy documentary Under the Gun tackles America’s persistent gun violence crisis with – word choice intended – an arsenal of information about why even modest fixes have been slow in coming…

There’s a villain, of course: the National Rifle Association post-1977, when it shifted from being an apolitical gun safety group to a lobbying behemoth in the business of goosing gun sales through fear, and scaring reelection-obsessed politicians into ‘no’ votes on any control measures…

[Director Stephanie Soechtig and producer/narrator Katie Couric are] careful not to tar the rank-and-file membership, especially when it’s easy to make NRA head Wayne LaPierre look like a nonsense-spewing nut job with just a few sound bites, and you can show average members genuinely surprised to learn that someone on the terror watch list has the right to buy a gun.

(Los Angeles Times, May 15, 2016)

v1.bTsxMTg5NTQ0NTtqOzE2OTc3OzIwNDg7NjUxOzk2MAUnder the Gun is only the latest in a spree of films released this year about the epidemic of gun violence in America. Unfortunately, not only are Americans immune to the gun-control message these films proselytize; they are even inured to the increasing menace of gun violence in their midst.

Arguably, Bowling for Columbine (2002) is to films about gun violence what To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) is to books about racial injustice. But, despite their popularity, the latter did little to redress racial injustice; the former did even less to redress gun violence.

This might explain why Under the Gun focuses more on the profiteers than the perpetrators. As the Los Angeles Times indicates, this film dramatizes how “shocked, shocked” average members are to learn that the NRA spins any gun-control measure, no matter how salutary, into a Trojan Horse aimed at confiscating their guns.

The NRA has venal politicians arguing that it is more important to grant citizens the right to own guns that can shoot a plane out of the sky than it is to grant them the right to affordable healthcare.

(“2011 State of the Union Address,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 26, 2011)

Soechtig and Couric clearly hope that the more average members know about the NRA’s mercenary machinations, the less likely they will be to support it; moreover, that the less average members support the NRA, the more likely politicians will be to enact gun-control legislation.

I’m not so sure; after all, politicians have demonstrated time and again their willingness to defy prevailing public opinion (e.g. on measures like background checks) to toe the NRA’s propaganda line. For them, campaign donations trump common sense.


As it happens, I preempted this film’s attempt to appeal to the common sense of “rank-and-file” NRA members in numerous commentaries, including as follows:

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has perpetrated a brazen and unconscionable fraud on the American people by pretending to be arch defenders of their right to keep and bear arms. Because the NRA is just the lobbying arm of gun manufacturers, and its sole mission is to ensure that those manufactures have the right to sell as many guns of every type to as many people as possible. Period!

(“The Second Amendment and Gun Control,” The iPINIONS Journal, December 19, 2012)

As my reference to Bowling for Columbine indicates, however, it beggars belief to think this film will be able to do what numerous exposés on 60 Minutes, the most-watched news program in the history of television, have been unable to.

Yet still we try to transform the consciousness of NRA members; hoping, perhaps against hope, to make owning a gun even more culturally anathema than smoking a cigarette. Never mind that NRA members seem as immune to common-sense gun control as Trump supporters are to common-sense immigration reform.

13e17f44Indignant ignorance animates both groups: It explains why NRA members believe the best way to protect themselves against gun violence is to fortify their homes with enough munitions to make U.S. military outposts in Iraq seem unfortified. It also explains why Trump supporters believe the best way to protect America against terrorist attacks is to ban all Muslims, deport all illegal immigrants, and build a wall along the Southern border.

In any event, it’s hardly surprising that:

America has more gun stores than it does McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.

(Huffington Post, May 15, 2016)

Frankly, Americans are more likely to kick their addition to fast food and caffeine before they kick their addiction to guns. More to the point, I would be genuinely surprised if any rank-and-file NRA member even bothers to watch Under the Gun.

In addition to those cited above, my commentaries include “NRA Cares No More about Gun Violence than Drug Cartels Do,” June 17, 2014, and “This Gun-Control Debate Is Insane,” April 5, 2013. What animates all of them is my contempt for the fact that getting the NRA to support gun control is like getting a drug cartel to support legalization.

Even more disheartening, though, is that gun-control advocates do little to advance their cause by debating the NRA on peripheral issues like background checks and terror lists. After all, continuing the analogy, this is like anti-drug advocates debating a drug cartel on peripheral issues like labeling cigarettes packages and second-hand smoke.

Instead, gun-control advocates should be demanding a ban on all assault rifles (aka weapons of war) and large ammunition magazines, which enable mass-shooting terrorists to maximize the number of people they kill with rapid-fire efficiency.

But perhaps some right-wing constitutionalist can explain why the First Amendment prohibits shouting fire in crowded theaters, but the Second Amendment allows carrying an assault rifle on crowded streets? And am I the only one who sees that it’s only a matter of time before open-carry fools trigger an O.K. Corral shootout with the police…?

That said, when it comes to gun violence, we are too often preaching to the choir.

Related commentaries:
2011 SOTU
NRA cares no more
Gun Control debate

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