Well, I gave Oscar-winning documentarist Barbara Kopple the benefit of the doubt. After watching Gunfight on HBO, I can state without equivocation that it was a heavily tilted, barely disguised polemic presenting the argument for gun control. In fact, you could call it the Colin [Goddard] and Paul [Helmke] Show . . .
Goddard, the high-cheekboned gun control advocate who survived the Virginia Tech massacre, was clearly the “star” of the doc. His experience opened the film and closed it. And ran all the way through it. The President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence played best supporting crusader; Kopple turned to Paul Helmke for narrative sound bite action no less than ten times.
Sympathetic is just a word. Let’s just say that The Brady Campaign will be using this documentary for fund-raising for years to come, without feeling the slightest need to counter any of the statements made by pro-gun people in the film. Except, of course, to mock them.
That won’t be hard. At all. The pro-gun folks were, as predicted, OFWG (Old Fat White Guys). With the exception of, wait for it, Sarah Palin. But we did get to hear the immortal line (so to speak) “Jesus Christ supported the right to carry.”
If Koppel was going for “balance,” introducing the pro-gun side of the program with a movie montage edited to portray gun enthusiasm as a homo-erotic phallocentric fetish (e.g., Chuck Connors rapid-firing his rifle from crotch level) wasn’t going to get it done.
Nor was giving airtime to an academic’s (later) claim that the OFWG gun owners (representing the NRA) were angry about blacks and immigrants taking their country away from them, which gave birth to an insurrectionist Second Amendment movement, which unleashed Timothy McVeigh on the world. See? There’s the building. And McVeigh wanted to stop the ATF, with an office inside, from grabbing his gun.
Kopple’s use of news footage was, perhaps, her most blatantly biased technique. While we did get news clips of the Supreme Court gun rights rulings, Koppel sampled the media again and again to express the inexpressible (her bias against gun ownership). The threat of an armed militia MUST be real: Newsweek had it on the cover! Fox News, always good for a laugh, was notable by its absence.
As predicted, the man tapped to give the film its “objectivity,” Richie Feldman, was mostly used to kick the NRA in the balls. Which the former NRA lobbyist did, but good. While I agree that the NRA is a fear-mongering fund-raising machine, set in the context of Gunfight, I found myself cheering for Wayne LaPierre. Note to new readers: that’s not something I do very often.
Other than that, your five-minute takeaway: Kopple put the “gunshow loophole” squarely in her sights. She allowed a blatant falsehood to underpin her fascination. Some smooth-talking guy said “It’s no secret how guns get in the hands of criminals . . . The gun show loophole is another very common way.” Uh, no. Less than three percent of firearms used in crimes are purchased at gun shows.
Facts schmacts. For me, the film’s highlight was a visit with two inner city gang bangers. The masked men displayed their “jawns” without a HINT of muzzle discipline. At the end of the tour, one of them seemed to be scratching his Johnson with the business end of a .22, as he talked about where his survivors planned to put his Darwin Award. Or something like that.
I reckon I deserve an award for sitting through this rubbish. Not that I expected any more from Koppel. The fact that she only made a half-assed attempt to hide her obvious anti-gun leanings speaks volumes about the elitism that infuses the gun control movement. Which is a blessing, I suppose.