“I think celebrities speaking up on gun violence does help.”

Jonathan E. Lowy is director of the legal action project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Lowy talked with Variety’s Ted Johnson about a need to examine the impact of gun culture, but not at the expense of focusing on gun control legislation.

Is there a connection between media violence and real-life violence?
After Columbine, there was great focus on the music of Marilyn Manson. I don’t know the studies, but I would be skeptical if there is a high correlation between listening to Marilyn Manson and committing mass murder. There is an extremely high correlation between access to high-capacity magazines and assault weapons and committing atrocities.

I think it is a good thing to be comprehensive, and to look at our mental health issues and the media and anything else that could contribute to our rate of violence, and to do everything we can to reduce it, but the fact remains that there is one thing about America that sets it apart and makes our gun death rate out of whack with every other industrialized nation in the world: America alone doesn’t have sensible gun laws.

At what point is the focus on the media so excessive that it obscures the focus on gun legislation?
The connection, going back to “Taxi Driver,” was of specific importance to (the case of) John Hinckley, but James and Sarah Brady put their energies behind making our gun laws more sensible, but not blaming Martin Scorsese for the shooting of James Brady and President Reagan.

You have featured a number of entertainment figures in public service announcements, but some gun-rights advocates have criticized Hollywood activists for promoting gun control yet appearing in very violent fare.
We welcome anyone who steps up and speaks out for sensible gun laws. I think celebrities speaking up on gun violence, just like other issues, does help. Celebrities have garnered far more attention than many other people, so their names are influential. It seems like (NRA CEO and exec VP) Wayne LaPierre may believe there should be no restrictions on guns in the real world, and apparently there should be restrictions on guns in the make-believe world of Hollywood. We don’t share that view. Many millions of Americans don’t share that view.