The National Rifle Assn. broadsided Hollywood at a press conference Friday, laying the blame for the Newtown, Conn., school shootings on violent entertainment and singling out videogames as “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry.”
“In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate, and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes,” said NRA executive VP Wayne LaPierre. “And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?”
The MPAA declined to respond to LaPierre’s comments directly, but directed reporters to Thursday’s statement from topper Chris Dodd, who said that the industry was “ready to be part of the national conversation” about gun violence.
In the wake of last Friday’s shootings, Hollywood has canceled various events and altered the scheduling of some television programming. Paramount delayed the Pittsburgh premiere of “Jack Reacher,” 20th Century Fox canceled festivities around its preem of “Parental Guidance” and the Weinstein Co. axed its red carpet event and afterparty for Tuesday’s premiere of “Django Unchained.”
The Demand a Plan campaign — an advocacy group launched by Mayors Against Illegal Guns in response to this summer’s shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado — released a 90-second PSA on Friday that included the participation of dozens of industryites, including Beyonce Knowles, Jessica Alba, Jon Hamm and Chris Rock.
Friday’s attack reignited the rhetoric as the nation searches for answers after the murder of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, including 20 children, at the hands of a gunman who took his own life. The issue of the nation’s gun control laws emerged as pressing topic in the immediate aftermath, but the NRA did not respond publicly until Tuesday, when it issued a statement saying it was “prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”
In light of Friday’s press conference, that statement surprised some observers. Among the org’s proposed solutions is the suggestion of having armed guards in the nation’s schools, which the org described as the “only way” to stop gun violence in that realm.
LaPierre directed much of his vitriol at the vidgame business.
“There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent videogames with names like ‘Bullet Storm,’ ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ ‘Mortal Combat,’ and ‘Splatterhouse.’
“Here’s one, it’s called ‘Kindergarten Killers,’ ” he continued. “It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research staff can find it, and all of yours couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?”
His words — and suggested remedies — sparked outrage and ridicule on social media, and disappointed those who had hoped for some concession on gun control from the agency that’s had an iron grip on national policy for decades.
LaPierre wants more guns, not fewer, calling for a police officer in every school: He said the NRA will develop a model school shield program with former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) leading the effort.
“Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones, they issue press releases bragging about them,” he said. “They post signs advertising them. And, in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”
“The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun,” LaPierre concluded.
National debates on gun violence and the media have yielded mixed results on capital hill.
After the 1999 Columbine shooting, the Federal Trade Commission ordered a number of inquiries into the marketing of violent entertainment to children.
The first, issued in 2000, called for the industry to stop advertising violent content to people under the age of 17 and suggested sanctions for non-compliance. By the following year, the FTC commended the film and gaming industries for changing their advertising practices and found a “general” compliance in the film biz not to run trailers for R-rated movies ahead of G- and PG-rated films.
But reviews of the music industry were less glowing, and the FTC found “virtually no change” to the marketing of explicit content in its third report in 2002.
Media orgs have long maintained that links between real and fictional violence are weak and inconclusive at best — a view contradicted by the American Medical Assn., the American Psychological Assn. and the American Academy of Pediatrics. After Columbine, for instance, the AAP issued a statement that cited “well over 1,000 studies” that made a causal connection between media violence and aggressive behavior in some children.
“The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children,” the org said.
The MPAA’s ratings system has been evolving since the 1980s. In 1984, the MPAA created the PG-13 label in response to outrage over the PG rating assigned to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” In 1990, the org introduced “descriptors” — explanations for any given rating that accompany each one on a film’s advertisement. But there have been numerous calls for changes to the volunteer system since.