USA Today, July 24, 2012
Colorado, Hollywood should team up on gun control
Both the state and Warner Bros. are at the center of a dilemma. Together,
they might find a way to deal with this plague.
By Bruce Kluger
Aurora, Colo., on Friday night when a madman sprayed gunfire at a horrified crowd.
But he dodged a bullet of his own two days later. Appearing on the ABC’s This
Week, he was asked by host George Stephanopoulos if the violent tragedy called
for a reconsideration of his state’s complicated gun laws.
“This wasn’t a Colorado problem, this is a human problem,” Hickenlooper said
smoothly, averting a conversation about guns and talking instead about the killer’s
“diabolical” nature. Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, who was seated next to
Hickenlooper for the interview, merely echoed the governor’s spin.
Warner Bros. studios was
doing a bit of its own
ducking and weaving.
Misfortune had dealt the
studio a bad hand: its
Batman blockbuster, The
Dark Knight Rises, was
playing in the Aurora
theater where the fiery
assault took place. After
scrambling for the
appropriate response, the
studio issued a statement
the extra yard, canceling the gala Paris premiere of the movie. But nowhere in its
public actions did the studio address the elephant in the room: the inescapable link
between movie and real-life violence.
soaked story, it strikes me that two such formidable institutions, a state government
and a major motion picture studio, might join forces to find a solution to one of
America’s most pressing plagues. Why not use Colorado—which now bears the
infamy of both the Aurora and Columbine massacres—as a testing ground for
dramatic new gun laws? And why not rely on Warner Bros.—no stranger to the
machinery of public relations—to support such an effort?
people, including themselves, Colorado has made some placating efforts to curb
gun violence. The state has tightened the regulations that govern gun show sales
and banned third-party purchases of weapons for those who are not legally
qualified to own them. But overall, the state remains largely in thrall to the NRA, with
relatively loose laws regarding the issuance of gun permits and, just this year, a
court ruling that allows for concealed weapons to be carried on the campus of the
University of Colorado.
James Holmes, the lone suspect in the Aurora theater shootings, was able to
purchase two pistols, one shotgun and an AR-15 assault weapon from local stores,
and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition online.
So why not try something revolutionary by introducing dramatic new laws in
Colorado that would roll back pro-gun legislation enacted in recent years, while
further tightening the restrictive ones already on the books. The new laws would
exist for a set period of time—say, a year or two—to determine if such a legislative
package could effectively decrease gun violence in the state?
We’ve already seen the success of such legislation on the national level with the
Federal Assaults Weapons Act of 1994, which according the Brady Center to
Prevent Gun Violence, resulted in a 66% drop over a decade in crimes committed
with the prohibited weapons. That law expired in 2004, but was never renewed by
Congress due to pressure from gun enthusiasts.
Granted, such a draconian measure sounds implausible, especially considering the
fierce pro-gun lobby that pulls together at times like these, barricading itself behind
defensive and inflammatory rhetoric. But the fact is, an across-the-board, no-
compromise anti-gun strategy has never been tried before in any state. And with
Colorado having now become ground zero for two of the most deadly incidents of
random gun violence in the history of the nation, doesn’t it arguably fall upon the
state to take the lead in the matter?
As for the inevitable backlash such a plan would trigger from the NRA, the response
would be simple: You’ve had your way long enough. It’s time to try something new.
And that’s where Warner Bros. could lend a hand. As all moviegoers know, the film
industry and its distribution arms are facile at delivering whatever message it wants
to get across—from the coming attractions and PSAs that regularly precede the
feature films, to the heartfelt holiday-time appeals that have us digging into our
pockets for spare change to donate to sick children. Surely Warner could mount a
similar campaign on behalf of a “Project Aurora,” which would beseech moviegoers
to contact state officials in Colorado and ask them to support such sweeping
legislation. Given its close ties to a vast community of A-list actors, actresses and
directors, the campaign could even be star-studded. And having already revealed
plans to donate some of its proceeds to Aurora victims, this would seem like a
logical next step for Warner.
Could such an effort ever really happen? Not likely. The issue is too loaded and
those forces that oppose gun restrictions of any kind are virtually unbudgeable.
And yet the point remains, the state of Colorado and Warner Bros. studio have
unwittingly found themselves in a historic crucible, and the search for a workable
solution to the Aurora tragedy—and all tragedies like it—has only served to raise
the temperature of the nation’s anger.
From desperation come desperate measures. Isn’t it time to think outside the box?