Nearly 200 writers, actors, and directors have signed a petition calling for Hollywood to “harness their power as culture makers” and reconsider how they portray gun use in film.
The petition, first reported by the newsletter The Ankler, urges the industry to limit scenes involving children and guns and to explicitly show characters locking their guns and putting them out of the reach of children.
It also asks creators to have “at least one conversation” during pre-production about narrative alternatives to firearm use. It doesn’t call for an outright ban on guns on screen.
So far, it's been signed by big names like Shonda Rhimes, Adam McKay, Judd Apatow, Amy Schumer, Mark Ruffalo, and Jimmy Kimmel. Other signatories include Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence and Hacks co-creator and star Paul Downs.
The nonprofit Brady: United Against Gun Violence, which is responsible for disseminating the petition, has its own theory about what inspires writers to include so many bloody shootouts in their scripts.
“We asked writers why guns are written about in television and film as much as they are,” the org says on its website. “The resounding answer was exactly what we expected: for many viewers, guns can be exciting, terrifying, and drive the emotional tone of a scene.”
The appeal comes on the heels of two mass shootings carried out by 18-year-olds in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, last month. Thirty-one people, including 19 schoolchildren in Uvalde, were killed as a result.
Brady pointed to Hollywood’s influence on its young, impressionable viewers.
“Hollywood has modeled positive culture change before: Seatbelt use, smoking, teen pregnancy, marriage equality. Now, as America’s gun violence epidemic worsens, is the time to undertake a responsibility in storytelling depicting firearms and gun safety,” the organization says.
The people on the list aren’t the only ones calling Hollywood out for their obsession with flying bullets.
On Friday, Bill Maher attacked the hypocrisy of an industry that stands up for gun control laws while putting out movie after movie about men who pick up guns to enact revenge.
“They hate it when gun people say, ‘It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun,’ but they endlessly produce movies with that exact plot,” the comedian said on his show, firing off an endless list of films with the word “vengeance” in the title.
“When liberals scream, ‘Do something!’ after a mass shooting, why aren’t we also dealing with the fact that the average American kid sees 200,000 acts of violence on screens before the age of 18? And that according to the FBI, one of the warning signs of a potential school shooter is ‘a fascination with violence-filled entertainment,’” he added.
This constant churn of trigger-happy content has led to tragedy, as when Alec Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins with a loaded prop gun on the set of the doomed Western Rust last year. Authorities in Santa Fe, where the movie was filmed, are still investigating the incident.
The Brady center’s fatigue-induced call to action comes after yet another shooting-outrage-inaction cycle that Americans have grown all too familiar with.
Some hope did arrive on Sunday, when Senate negotiators announced they’d reached a bipartisan deal on (very) mild gun reforms, according to the Associated Press.
The package would make juvenile records available on background checks for gun purchases so that someone under 21 can be fully vetted before buying one. It would also bar convicted domestic abusers from buying a gun, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” Additionally, it would provide money to states to enact better “red flag” laws that would temporarily confiscate the weapons of people considered to be violent.
It has the support of enough Republican senators to avoid a filibuster.
In a statement, President Biden said, “There are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House.”