×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: Frontline’s ‘Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA’

The National Rifle Assn.’s political clout is so sweeping — and numerically disproportionate — that it’s unusual to realize its power is largely taken for granted, as if it were always thus. Frontline addresses that history, as well as the group’s combative modern posture, in “Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA,” an hourlong documentary perhaps especially important for Hollywood, given how surrogates for showbiz and the gun lobby inevitably end up pointing fingers at each other in the face of mass shootings. The refresher course is necessary, though nothing here provides any clues about shaking the NRA’s stranglehold on politics, where “No retreat” is the mantra.

As this latest fine and even-handed production from Kirk Documentary Group makes clear, the NRA was a relatively benign, not terribly political organization until 1977, when then-dissident members seized control of the group, adopting a hardline stance against virtually any form of gun-control regulation.

The seminal moment, however, came in 1999, when the NRA vigorously pushed back against the public’s understandable horror over the school shooting at Columbine High School, with then-front-man Charlton Heston famously brandishing a rifle and dramatically intoning, “From my cold, dead hands.”

The 2000 election followed, with NRA muscle contributing to the razor-thin margin that denied (with a little help from the Supreme Court) the presidency to Al Gore, who as Vice President had cast the tie-breaking vote on a piece of relatively modest gun legislation.

Among those interviewed, perhaps the most salient point that keeps emerging is the NRA’s savvy, now under the leadership of Wayne LaPierre, in remaining vigilant and steadfast even in the wake of new tragedies, such as the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary or of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, realizing that while the group’s commitment to the sanctity of firearms is unwavering, the public is apt to get distracted in its opposition, and move on.

LaPierre, moreover, must deal with his own unyielding wing within the NRA, a former spokesman notes, which might explain his reluctance to seek compromise in any way — a stance that has if anything metastasized during the Obama administration, due to the “They’re coming for our guns” paranoia his presidency has unleashed on the political fringes.

No one currently associated with the NRA would speak to the producers, and indeed, why should they? Because in the ongoing battle over gun control, it’s pretty obvious who’s winning. Small wonder proponents of stricter gun laws have recently begun pursuing state ballot initiatives, as the New York Times reported, seeking to mount an end run around the NRA’s well-fortified position in Washington.

For now, though, as “Gunned Down” illustrates, the organization’s leaders seem to recognize they come to that battle armed with the ultimate ammunition: Tons of money, a cowering political class, and a population that might embrace reasonable limitations on gun ownership in theory but lacks the necessary determination to make it happen once the smoke clears.

TV Review: Frontline's 'Gunned Down: The Power of the NRA'

(Documentary; PBS, Tue. Jan. 6, 10 p.m.)

Production: Produced by the Kirk Documentary Group and Frontline.

Crew: Executive producer, David Fanning; deputy executive producer, Raney Aronson-Rath; producers, Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, Mike Wiser; director, Kirk; writers, Kirk, Wiser; reporter, Jim Gilmore. 60 MIN.

More TV

  • Jay Sures

    UTA Co-President Jay Sures Reappointed to University of California Board of Regents

    UTA co-president Jay Sures has been reappointed to the University of California Board of Regents for a 12-year term. The term, which is still pending Senate confirmation, will be effective from March 2 and was announced among a larger batch of appointments by Governor Gavin Newsom. Sures was first appointed to the position in Jan. [...]

  • Netflix - The Witcher

    'The Witcher' on Track to Be Netflix's Biggest TV Show Premiere Ever, Company Claims

    Netflix said “The Witcher,” the fantasy series starring Henry Cavill, is pacing to be its biggest first-season original TV series ever. “The Witcher,” which debuted Dec. 20 on Netflix, was chosen to be watched by 76 million customer households in the first four weeks of release, according to the company. That would appear to mean [...]

  • RuPaul

    RuPaul, JJ Watt to Host 'Saturday Night Live' in February

    RuPaul and JJ Watt will both make their “Saturday Night Live” hosting debuts in February. NBC announced Tuesday that Watt will host the Feb. 1 installment of the long-running sketch series with musical guest Luke Combs. Watt is currently a defensive end for the Houston Texans and three-time AP Defensive Player of the Year. Combs’ [...]

  • Gary Dauberman

    'Annabelle,' 'IT' Screenwriter Gary Dauberman Inks First-Look Deal at UCP

    Gary Dauberman has signed a first-look television deal with Universal Content Productions (UCP), the studio announced Tuesday. Under the deal, Dauberman will write and produce scripted projects across all platforms. He will also launch his own production company, Coin Operated. Dauberman is known for his work on the screenplay for the new film version of [...]

  • Chris McCarthy Sets ViacomCBS Team for

    Chris McCarthy Sets ViacomCBS Leadership Team for Entertainment & Youth Division

    ViacomCBS’ senior leadership ranks are coming into sharper focus as Chris McCarthy, head of the sprawling Entertainment and Youth wing has solidified his senior leadership team. A number of executives closely associated with McCarthy are gaining additional responsibilities, including programming maven Nina Diaz, MTV chief marketing officer Jacqueline Parkes and PR chief Liza Burnett Fefferman. [...]

  • Jonathan Del Arco

    'Star Trek: Picard' Actor Jonathan Del Arco Launches 'Hollywood Caucus' Podcast With First Guest Jeri Ryan

    Jonathan Del Arco is boldly going into the intersection of entertainment and politics. On Tuesday, the “Star Trek: Picard” actor debuted his new podcast “Hollywood Caucus,” with co-host Tara Karsian. Hailing from Dan Harmon’s Starburns Audio, the podcast will feature interviews with figures from both the entertainment industry and the political sphere. For the premiere [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content