With yet another terrible mass shooting in the US, I’ve seen the discussion on the use of guns and gun violence in movies come up again. And as someone who makes action movies, often with the protagonists/good guys using guns, I thought I’d give my two cents on the subject.
First of all: History and studies have proven beyond any doubt that a full on ban of all firearms works. You can disagree with it because you feel like you can personally own a gun responsibly and it makes you feel safe, but your personal situation doesn’t change clear evidence for an entire society.
Then there’s the influence of violent entertainment in media on real life: In my experience a violent video game for example can lead to someone mimicking that behaviour in real life, but that behaviour doesn’t exist because of the game. It exists because for whatever reason that person is looking for violence to mimic, and finds what they’re already looking for in whatever media they come into contact with. A person who (because of fear, racism, untreated issues, there’s numerous reasons) finds themselves drawn to violence will always eventually find it, regardless of which movies/comics/games are available to them. There was violence before video games, before movies, before books and plays. And of course most people watch violence in media all the time and never resort to it in real life.
Censoring art is not a proven method of stopping violence. Most countries have the same if not more violence in media available than America does, but still, with stricter gun control, there are little to no real life incidents. Kill Bill didn’t cause a wave of mass killings using katana’s. At worst it caught a wave of aspiring filmmakers.
Many people have spoken out, especially recently, against the John Wick movies for making guns look cool. But it’s important to realize that only in America that’s something you can then actually emulate when the movie is over. In most countries John Wick with a gun is as much a fiction as Harry Potter with a wand.
So to me, growing up in The Netherlands (VERY strict gun laws and almost no gun related incidents), seeing American movies with guns in them was the same as watching Frodo with Sting, or Chewbacca with the bowcaster. Guns to non-American audiences are closer to fiction.
As such, as a filmmaker, I like guns. I still own prop guns from movies I’ve worked on. But I find them fascinating exactly because they’re scary & horrible. I’d never want to own a real one. Banning guns in movies won’t solve gunviolence, but as a writer or director, you should still be mindful, because whether you mean to or not, in the current climate, you are playing with fire.
You can make guns (or gangsters, etc) look cool, but an effort should probably always be made to not make them good. Your hero shouldn’t want to use guns. They can be a genius with them, and be forced to use them, but it should always be a terrible last resort, because that’s what they are in real life. Regardless of if you’re living in a country where they’re forbidden and rare, or legal and common.
I think it’s important to make every effort to make sure guns in America become as rare and special as they are in other countries, a mythical super weapon that belongs in fiction.
I’m a 32 year old film director, I make movies with guns, but I’ve never even seen a real gun. And frankly I’d like to keep it that way.