A group of 200 top writers, producers and directors have signed an open letter backed by the Brady gun violence organization that includes a pledge to incorporate gun safety best practices into their shows and to scrutinize the use of firearms in storytelling.
The list of signatories (click here to see the letter) includes Shonda Rhimes, J.J. Abrams, Bill Lawrence, Jimmy Kimmel and the “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” writing staff, Michelle and Robert King, Judd Apatow, Steve Levitan, David Shore, Matt Nix, Dan Lin and Jenni Konner. The letter frames gun safety an urgent social issue for the industry to embrace, in the same way that intentional depictions of such topics as cigarette smoking, drunk driving, the use of seat belts, marriage equality and LGBT rights helped change cultural attitudes and save lives.
“As America’s storytellers, our goal is primarily to entertain, but we also acknowledge that stories have the power to effect change. Cultural attitudes toward smoking, drunk driving, seatbelts and marriage equality have all evolved due in large part to movies’ and TV’s influence. It’s time to take on gun safety,” the letter states.
The letter comes three weeks after the nation was shocked by the mass shooting of 19 children and two adults on May 24 at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. And that was only 10 days after a gunmen killed 10 Black victims at a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. The back-to-back tragedies have sparked renewed calls for gun control measures, and a renewed round of finger-pointing about why mass shootings happen at such a shocking pace in the U.S.
The letter grew out of Brady’s ongoing outreach and educational efforts within the creative community. Christy Callahan, co-chair of Brady LA, worked with industry insiders to craft a statement of purpose for the industry at a time of anguish and frustration.
“As we worked through the language, we wanted to be respectful of the creative community’s wide range of experience and opinions about guns on screen,” Callahan said. “Every person agreed that not only do we need better gun laws, but also modeling gun safety on screen could have a positive effect on the culture in a country with 400 million guns in circulation. It worked with smoking and seatbelts, it’s time to try with gun safety.”
Signers of the letter vow to consider the frequent use of guns and other firearms to raise the stakes in storytelling, particularly when it comes to episodic TV. According to the letter, signers pledge to:
- Use our creativity to model responsible gun ownership and show consequences for reckless gun use. We will make a conscious effort to show characters locking their guns safely and making them inaccessible to children.
- Have at least one conversation during pre-production regarding the way guns will be portrayed on screen and consider alternatives that could be employed without sacrificing narrative integrity.
- Limit scenes including children and guns, bearing in mind that guns are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents.
The letter describes the signers as “enraged” by the recent mass casualty events but does not wade into the larger discussion of policy changes needed to help curb gun violence, such as bans or limitations on assault weapons such as those used in the Uvalde and Buffalo massacres. But the group of prominent hyphenates said they felt a responsibility to act in the face of this year’s mounting death toll.
“We are under no illusions that these actions are a substitute for common sense gun legislation. Furthermore, this list does not incorporate every nuance of guns on screen. However, these are small things that we can do as a community to try and end this national nightmare.”
Here is the full text of the letter:
An Open Letter to Our Colleagues in the Creative Community
Like most of America, we are enraged by the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. Considering there have been over 250 other mass shootings so far this year, it’s an almost incomprehensible tragedy. Something needs to be done.
Guns are prominently featured in TV and movies in every corner of the globe, but only America has a gun violence epidemic. The responsibility lies with lax gun laws supported by those politicians more afraid of losing power than saving lives. We didn’t cause the problem, but we want to help fix it.
As America’s storytellers, our goal is primarily to entertain, but we also acknowledge that stories have the power to effect change. Cultural attitudes toward smoking, drunk driving, seatbelts and marriage equality have all evolved due in large part to movies’ and TV’s influence. It’s time to take on gun safety.
We are not asking anyone to stop showing guns on screen. We are asking writers, directors and producers to be mindful of on-screen gun violence and model gun safety best practices. Let’s use our collective power for good. Whenever possible, we will:
Use our creativity to model responsible gun ownership and show consequences for reckless gun use. We will make a conscious effort to show characters locking their guns safely and making them inaccessible to children.
Have at least one conversation during pre-production regarding the way guns will be portrayed on screen and consider alternatives that could be employed without sacrificing narrative integrity.
Limit scenes including children and guns, bearing in mind that guns are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents.
We are under no illusions that these actions are a substitute for common sense gun legislation. Furthermore, this list does not incorporate every nuance of guns on screen. However, these are small things that we can do as a community to try and end this national nightmare. If you are a writer, director or producer, join us by signing here.
In alphabetical order
Jennifer Flackett Levin
Eric Michael Garcia
R. Scott Gemmill
Ellen Goldsmith Vein
Jimmy Kimmel and the writers of the Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Elysa Koplovitz Dutton
Randi Mayem Singer
Michael A. Ross
Claire Rudnick Polstein
Lauren Schmidt Hissrich
Chris Van Dusen
Patric M. Verrone
David W. Zucker
(Pictured: Uvalde, Texas on May 24 after 19 children and two adults were killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School)