Mike Hammond is legislative counsel for the Gun Owners of America. The group was the first pro-gun organization to comment after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Hammond spoke with Variety’s Rachel Abrams.
Is there a connection between media violence and real-life violence?
Yes, and there’s even more of a connection between media and real-life violence. Columbine received a huge amount of media attention I think because many in the media thought that it would be a vehicle for achieving significant gun control. But the net effect was that it created a series of ricochet killings that continue today.
Do you remember what Adam Lanza was wearing? He was wearing black, basically the same outfit as the killer in (a December mall shooting in Oregon), who was wearing the
same as the killer in Aurora, Colo.
I think it’s reasonably clear that these killings occur because individuals look at media coverage of previous shooters and determine that this is the way they can get their 15 minutes of fame.
Is one form of media more dangerous than others?
I think the most dangerous thing is the spiraling coverage of the killings. I predict there are at least 10, maybe a lot more, young white males, probably 15 to 25 years of age, sitting out there watching the coverage of Newtown and using it as a basis to plan their own 15 minutes of fame.
Is it possible for Hollywood to show violence that would deter people?
I don’t think it’s any more possible to regulate Hollywood than it is to regulate guns. Probably both would take more political effort than Washington has the wherewithal to achieve.
Why does “liberal Hollywood” make so much violent content?
I’ll answer that with one with one word: Hypocrisy.
Is Sandy Hook a mental-health issue, media issue, gun issue or something else?
We think it’s a gun issue, but probably in a different sense than you do. We think that when federal law advertised the fact that Lanza could walk into school, shoot up a kindergarten, get his name on the evening news and not risk the possibility that anyone was going to fire back, that pretty much guaranteed the result.
When some in the media talk about violence in America, they’re talking guns.
I think most of the media is on a campaign to destroy — as Julian Epstein put it on MSNBC, the exercise is to “break the back of the NRA.” That’s what this is all about. I don’t think anyone, even most liberal advocates in the media, believe that anything they’re proposing would have stopped Newtown.
About 80%-90% of Americans who are killed by firearms are black youths. Basically that gets no attention until it’s cute little white kids. That seems to be a narrative that MSNBC is spinning out. The gun control advocates see this as having a lot of utility in achieving gun control, so it becomes what they emphasize.
Is America losing its moral compass? If so, does that contribute to violence?
Yes and yes. When I was growing up in the ’60s, I was in an inner-city high school. I was in ROTC during the Vietnam war, and I and all the other 14- and 15-year-olds would walk (around the school grounds) with semi-automatic rifles; they were M-1s. It didn’t occur to anyone in 1967 that any of us were going to shoot up the school. The year after I graduated in 1968, Lyndon Johnson signed (the Gun Control Act); did America become safer after 1968 as a result of that?
And what’s the solution?
I don’t think, politically, they’re going to be able to ban guns, thank God. And I don’t think that politically they’re ever going to be able to regulate movies. I think ultimately the solution is to allow students, teachers, principals and staff to be able to defend their kids if, God forbid, the need ever arose.
Is your solution aligned with the NRA’s?
The NRA proposed armed security guards and police. I think a more practical solution would be to allow teachers and principals and staff (in particular those with a concealed carry permit) to defend their students.
It may be that no one would choose to have a gun, but at least the Adam Lanzas in the world would have to consider the possibility that someone at Sandy Hook was armed.