Within less than a week, mass shootings ended the lives of 18 people in California alone. These were but two incidents in a terrifying start to the new year, which, as of Tuesday, had at least 39 separate shootings in which four or more people were injured or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
This came also at about the time when news broke that the actor Alec Baldwin would be charged for fatally shooting Halyna Hutchins, a cinematographer, on a New Mexico film set. Mr. Baldwin and Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of the “Rust” weapons, are to be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter for their roles in Ms. Hutchins’s death, Santa Fe District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies announced last Thursday. These tragedies would perhaps seem only tangentially related, but they both point to America’s ongoing fascination with guns and a willingness to accept continual horrific violence all in the name of “freedom.”
Since the “Rust” shooting in 2021, much of the conversation has been about firearms practices in moviemaking and whether real guns should ever be on set. This misses the larger issue of why firearms and shooting have become the cinematic norm. Pretty people with guns are on our television screens, smartphones, and in movie theaters. It seems that Hollywood can scarcely make any movie without something at some point going “bang.” By glorifying firearms and making killing sexy, filmmakers and writers have, at best, normalized guns and, at worst, encouraged an ongoing national tragedy.
Bringing an end to the nightmare of mass shootings, and to the epidemic thousands of murders and suicides in which a firearm is used each year, must be a top priority. Guns on screen — a cop-out of the imagination and a cover-up for lazy writing — are a big part of the problem. America’s entertainment industry can and must do better.