By Dan Clendenin
Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA (2015)
I watched this one-hour PBS Frontline documentary a day after the worst mass shooting in American history — the slaughter of fifty people at a gay night club in Orlando in June of 2016. By now the list of American gun tragedies is long, the subsequent narrative is predictable, and the result always the same. This film focuses on the aftermath of three events — Gabby Gifford (formerly pro-gun!), Columbine, and Sandy Hook — and then the failure of federal legislative efforts in 1999 and 2013, despite the public outcry “to do something.” Our presidents, our congress, and especially the NRA and its head Wayne LaPierre make for easy targets, and surely bear blame and shame for fostering gun violence. By many accounts the NRA is the best equipped and most feared lobby in all of Washington. They insist that the issue is not guns but freedom. After Sandy Hook they argued for more guns in the hands of “good people” in order to fight the “bad people.” None of the NRA leadership would agree to be interviewed for this film. Time after time, public outrage has lost the fight with political realities. But after watching this movie, which one NRA advocate described as fair-minded, I wondered about our need for scapegoats, and about what the historian Garry Wills calls the signs of our deeply degraded culture that has become so violent in so many ways. I watched this film from the Frontline website.
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