HBO DOCUMENTARY "GUN FIGHT" SHINES A LIGHT ON GUN CULTURE IN AMERICA WHEN IT DEBUTS APRIL 13
Documentary Marks Fourth Anniversary Of The Virginia Tech Shooting
There are an estimated 250 million guns in the United States today. Over the past dozen years, a string of deadly shootings has pockmarked the nation as guns - licensed and unlicensed - have found their way into the wrong hands.
Blending archival and original footage, two-time Oscar(R)-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple ("Harlan County, U.S.A.," "American Dream") investigates the complex issues surrounding guns and the heated debate over how best to reduce gun violence in the U.S., telling stories of citizens and activists on different sides in GUN FIGHT. The thought-provoking documentary debuts WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13 (9:30-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) exclusively on HBO, the week of the fourth anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings on April 16, 2007.
Other HBO playdates: April 13 (5:00 a.m.), 16 (10:30 a.m. ET/9:00 a.m. PT), 21 (7:00 p.m.), 25 (3:00 p.m.) and 29 (10:00 a.m.)
HBO2 playdates: April 23 (3:00 p.m.) and May 2 (2:45 a.m.) and 4 (8:00 p.m.)
Adopted in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment, addressing the right to bear arms, reads, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." There has been much debate about the meaning of those words in today's world. Some gun rights advocates view the amendment as a sacred text that guarantees their natural born right to own guns, while gun control advocates would like to see it interpreted differently for contemporary life.
Using the Virginia Tech massacre as a starting point, GUN FIGHT explores different sides of this volatile issue. Virginia Tech alum Colin Goddard was shot four times by Seung-Hui Cho in a Virginia Tech classroom and is one of only seven survivors from that class. After recovering, he joined the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which calls itself the nation's largest national, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence. In GUN FIGHT, Goddard goes undercover to a gun show and buys an assault weapon from a private owner, without the Brady Bill background check required at gun stores. The film shows how he and others work to lobby for passage of laws that will keep weapons out of the hands of those who they believe can do the most damage.
Kopple's cameras also travel to gun-rights conventions and gatherings to meet people who are deeply committed to defending what they regard as their Second Amendment rights.
Even in the wake of various deadly gun control incidents, including Virgina Tech and Columbine, two recent Supreme Court rulings have tipped the scales in favor of gun-rights proponents who view limits on gun ownership and sales as a violation of their freedoms. Some gun rights supporters believe that tragedies like the Virginia Tech shootings could have been prevented, or at least mitigated, had students and/or teachers been allowed to carry weapons into classrooms. As Virigina Tech grad student and legally licensed gun owner and carrier Bradford Wiles explains, "The second-to-last thing that I ever want to do is shoot somebody. The last thing I want to do is die because somebody shot me." Many community members in urban settings state that the sad reality is that carrying a gun is a way of life in their neighborhoods. Philadelphia-based filmmaker Hakim Young says guns are like water, declaring, "You can't live without a gun."
The proliferation of gun culture in the inner cities is often passed down from generation to generation. Dr. Amy Goldberg of Temple University explains, "Philadelphia is the major city that's paying the price of Pennsylvania being a gun state," noting that people in other areas are "very concerned about defending the Constitution, and I can appreciate that, but they're defending the Constitution at the cost of our city and at the cost of our young."
In addition to Goddard and Goldberg, others appearing in GUN FIGHT include: Richard Feldman, a former NRA spokesman and lobbyist for gun manufacturers; Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence; Dr. Garen Wintemute, an emergency medical physician and professor of emergency medicine at the UC Davis Medical Center, who also researches gun violence; Scott Melzer, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Albion College and author of "Gun Crusaders: The NRA's Culture War"; and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.
At the end of GUN FIGHT, Goddard passionately tells a congressional forum that the Brady Act, as written, is too weak to protect future Americans from another Seung-Hui Cho or other prohibited purchasers, declaring, "I can think of no reasonable, responsible, logical reason why that should be." As former gun lobbyist Feldman points out, while both sides may agree that weapons should be kept out of the wrong hands, whether a law gets passed remains to be seen.
GUN FIGHT director Barbara Kopple won Best Documentary Feature Academy Awards(R) for 1977's "Harlan County, U.S.A." and 1991's "American Dream." Among her many other credits, she also directed "Shut Up and Sing," "Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson" and several episodes of "Homicide: Life on the Street." Kopple has also won three DGA Awards and three Sundance Film Festival Awards.
Producer Marc N. Weiss' film "When Strangers Click" debuted on HBO2 in February. He created the PBS documentary series "P.O.V." and Web Lab, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to using the web as a transformative force in people's lives.
GUN FIGHT is a film by Barbara Kopple; producers, Barbara Kopple, Marc N. Weiss and Williams Cole; editor, Robert Eisenhardt.