Sunday, November 28

‘We have to break down that wall’: inside the US battle for gun control | Documentary films

TThe modern version of the National Rifle Association as a political force opposed to any gun safety measure was familiar to Fred Guttenberg even before his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was murdered along with 16 other people in high school. Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland. , Florida, on February 14, 2018.

The groups reply to parkland It was the same as after 26 people, including 20 children, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, the same as after the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, after Sutherland Springs, after Pulse Nightclub, amid the gun violence that claim 100 lives a day in the United States: the only solution to gun violence is more guns, everywhere. Or to appointment Former NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, following Sandy Hook: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The day after his daughter’s death, Guttenberg, distraught, tried to put words to the unfathomable at a vigil. “My job is to protect my children,” she said in a cracking voice, “and I sent my son to school,” where Jaime was supposed to be safe. When he got home, the first thing Guttenberg said to his friends and family was “I’m going to break the fucking gun lobby,” he told The Guardian. “Because he knew the NRA and he knew its influence.”

The Price of Freedom, a new documentary on the history of the NRA and the cost of its mythology, reveals, in meticulous detail, the artifice and apparatus behind that influence. The searing 95-minute film, directed by Judd Ehrlich, looks at the evolution of the National Rifle Association from its founding as a hunting sports club in 1871 to the most powerful gun lobby group in the country – an insular and dogmatic organization. , ruthless in its politicization. of gun ownership and uncompromising in his fantasy of guns as a central part of American identity. The NRA’s figure of gun culture as synonymous with Founding Fathers’ patriotism, and security measures as antithetical to America’s founding principles, has “become so saturated in the American population,” Ehrlich told The Guardian. “And we have to understand that if we want to combat that.”

It was not always like this; As the movie explains, gun control is as much a part of the founding of America as the Second Amendment. Delaware banned firearms from polling places in 1776, for example; Louisiana banned concealed carrying of firearms in 1813. The NRA’s deification of the cowboy figure: the lone ranger who walks in with a gun to save the day, played by former Western star Ronald Reagan, the first president Backed by the NRA, it is a fantasy of vigilante anarchy. States across the country had adopted, by the late 1800s, gun safety measures that look like political fancies in 2021: gunpowder regulation (Texas, 1839), mandatory gun registration (Illinois, 1885), property bans of “dangerous people” (Kansas, 1868), prohibition of firearms in churches and schools (Arizona, 1889).

With input from historians and journalists who have covered the NRA for years, The Price of Freedom traces the metastasis of the NRA’s absolutist rhetoric into legislation that has contributed to a gun violence epidemic In the USA much older than any other developed nation. The film focuses on a little-known but highly significant subject. leadership coup in 1977, when former President Harlon Carter, who changed the spelling of his name to evade attention for a murder committed when he was 17, toppled most of the organization’s leaders at its annual convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Carter, who had a broad and voracious vision of the Second Amendment, shifted the NRA’s focus from hunting sports and conserving the environment – the group supported the Gun Control Act of 1968 – to political lobbying for rights. arms, and positioned the NRA as a PR. intelligent organization ready to accumulate power in moments of fear or discomfort.

“When you look at all those things and think, what if this powerful organization had gone in a different direction, it’s hard not to conclude that we would be in a very different place in terms of how we talk about guns in this country? Ehrlich said. Take, for example, the proliferation of so-called Stand Your Ground laws, which essentially allow citizens to shoot to kill at their own discretion – a convenient loophole for racial prejudice, among many disastrous outcomes. The price of freedom draws a straight line from the politicization of gun ownership as a fundamental natural right, at least for whites, since the NRA had no problem limiting the Second Amendment when it was the Black Panthers accessing weapons – to video of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager from Illinois, patrolling the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin with an AR-15 in August 2020, acting as a vigilante unhindered by police, even after he shot and killed two protesters from Black Lives Matter. Guttenberg recorded his interview for the film on the afternoon of January 6, when an armed mob of Trump supporters stormed the nation’s Capitol.

Fred Guttenberg in The Price of Freedom
Fred Guttenberg in The Price of Freedom. Photography: Tribeca Studios

Guttenberg, who channeled his pain into gun safety activism and the marginalization of the NRA, has voiced his opinion on breaking his hold on the no-action status quo in Washington. “One of the brilliant things the NRA did was create this environment where, as a country, we believe that gun safety legislation can never pass through Washington DC; this country cannot do it, ”he said. Guttenberg is one of several figures in the film whose defense of common sense gun safety legislation is rooted in losses from gun violence, including Representative Lucy McBath, whose 17-year-old son was shot by a white man after a discussion with loud music; X González, founder of the March for Our Lives movement; and Gabby Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman shot in the head during a meeting with voters in 2011.

“We have to get through that wall,” Guttenberg said, pointing to the confirmation by david chipman to spearhead the Office of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the first permanent director since 2015, and legislation for background checks as immediate priorities under the Biden administration’s push for gun reform. “And once you do, and let’s do it with background checks, then it’s no longer about whether you can or can’t or can’t, it’s about what’s possible. Listen, after my daughter was killed, we did what seemed impossible: we got gun safety legislation passed in Florida. So it’s no longer about not being able to do it, it’s about what else we can do. “

The Price of Freedom points to the Parkland aftermath as a turning point for the NRA: the March for Our Lives movement sparked a strong public and corporate backlash toward the group; The 2018 midterm elections brought to Washington candidates running for gun reform, including McBath and Crow. Under public pressure, companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling semi-automatic rifles and banned all sales to customers under the age of 21. The NRA faces financial crisis, internal unrest and possible dissolution after an investigation by the New York attorney general’s office revealed corruption and tax malfeasance by its leadership, particularly LaPierre.

Whether or not the organization continues, the NRA’s cultivation of an entire community and identity around an extreme vision of the Second Amendment will likely survive, casting a long shadow over American life. But Guttenberg echoed various figures in the film with the goal of changing what may seem impossibly ingrained. “I have no choice but to remain hopeful and optimistic,” he said. “And when I cross the country and I meet people in every community, even in communities where people say, ‘ah, that’s a gun community,’ wherever I go, people really believe that we can do more.

“I don’t hate the second amendment, that has always been the big lie. I hate gun violence, ”Guttenberg said. “So my hope is based on the idea that everyone else also hates gun violence. And if we can agree on that, let’s fix this together. “

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