'Trigger Warning' is focused on changing the way guns are portrayed in the media
Washington, D.C., May 23, 2023 – Hollywood, Health & Society at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center, in collaboration with Brady, has released Trigger Warning: Gun Guidelines for the Media to help the entertainment industry improve representations of safe and responsible gun use in media.
American citizens own four times the amount of guns as the next highly developed country and suffer four times the amount of gun homicides. In addition, 30 million children in the US live in households with firearms and 4.6 million live in a home with at least one loaded and unlocked gun. Over half of all gun owners do not lock all of their firearms securely, and access to a gun in the home increases the risk of death by suicide by 300%. Research shows that children’s programming that features guns has been proven to make children more likely to want to play with guns.
Kris Brown, president of Brady, said:
“Hollywood leaders want to use their talents and voices to inspire positive culture change. Outraged by the tragedy in Uvalde, this time last year about 300 leading writers, directors, and producers signed Brady's open letter committing to modeling gun safety on screen. Now, they have a roadmap to turn that commitment into tangible change. We've heard many creatives share examples of meaningful changes they've made since signing the pledge, so I am excited for the life-saving impact that will come now that the community has this important tool.”
Film producer Norman Lear said:
“I couldn’t be prouder that the Center which bears my name is releasing this report about gun safety and the entertainment industry. How guns are portrayed on screen should reflect the public health crisis we are in, and help portray responsible gun ownership.”
Marty Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center, added:
“The Lear Center’s message to the creative community in this report comes down to this: Treat guns in your stories as if they were real. Because your audience does.”
Kate Folb, M.Ed., director of Hollywood, Health & Society, said:
“From ‘designated driver’ to ‘buckle up,’ we all know how Hollywood helped make our roads safer by depicting responsible driving. Could there be a better moment than this one for the entertainment industry to get behind a similar effort for gun safety, and depict responsible gun ownership? TV shows are in a unique position to change the narrative, reset the bar, and provide representation of safe, responsible behavior when it comes to firearms.”
The data in this guide represents a snapshot of trends over the past 20 years, as well as a warning of where those trends are headed without conscientious action. Film and television creatives have the power to shape public perception, normalize habits, and even effect policy, which is why the way we talk about and depict guns and gun violence matters so much. America has more guns than people; more homicides, suicides, and unintentional deaths by firearm than any of its high-income peer countries by orders of magnitude. The number one cause of death for children and teens in America is gun violence. So it makes sense that guns seem to be everywhere in our media, too. From late night news to Saturday morning cartoons, cop shows to comedies — guns are ubiquitous on our screens.
Since 2001, Hollywood, Health & Society has been a free resource to the entertainment industry, having consulted on over 2,600 storylines between 2012-2020. HH&S also works with networks and shows to produce PSAs and other informational spots offering resources to audiences. In recent years, HH&S has consulted on dozens of shows including Grey’s Anatomy, This is Us, Will Trent, New Amsterdam, Superman & Lois, Euphoria, NCIS, Orange is the New Black, Empire, Days of Our Lives, Shameless, Hawaii Five-O, Fire Country, Station 19, The Resident and many more. For more information on Hollywood, Health & Society and its goals to improve representations of safe gun use in media, please visit hollywoodhealthandsociety.org or follow on Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook.
For more information on Brady’s #ShowGunSafety campaign, please visit bradyunited.org/showgunsafety. The campaign encourages writers, directors and producers to model responsible gun ownership and showing consequences for reckless gun use on screen. About 300 writers, directors, and producers signed Brady’s open letter, agreeing to lead positive culture change by having conversations during pre-production regarding the way guns are shown on film and limiting scenes including children and firearms. The letter remains open and Brady is encouraging more film and TV leaders to join the effort.#ShowGunSafety Hollywood ambassadors recently met with the White House about the role Hollywood can play in combating the gun violence epidemic.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.