At a press conference held at a Washington, DC, hotel last month, the National Rifle Association's leadership responded to the tragic mass shooting at a Newtown, CT, elementary school by decrying the impact of violent movies on our culture. Less than 20 miles away, their organization's museum was hosting a laudatory exhibit on the firearms used in popular violent films.
During his December 21 speech at Washington DC's Willard Hotel, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre sought to refocus the debate on the political response to the shooting away from new regulations on guns. He instead passed blame to what he called “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people,” specifically highlighting “the blood-soaked slasher films like 'American Psycho' and 'Natural Born Killers' that are aired like propaganda loops.”
Of course, academic research has discredited the notion that violent movies encourage violent behavior. But it nonetheless seems clear that the NRA's aversion to violent films is extremely inconsistent.
Since 2010, the NRA National Firearms Museum, which is based out of the group's Fairfax, VA, headquarters, has hosted “Hollywood Guns,” an exhibit featuring firearms made famous by movies like Dirty Harry, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Die Hard. According to NRA magazine American Rifleman, “If you love guns or you love movies or, still luckier, you love guns and movies, this is a trip you cannot miss.”
In the video, museum senior curator Phil Schreier says, "[W]e encourage you to come by and visit this sequel and come see a true blockbuster here in Fairfax, where all the stars of the silver screen have descended into these galleries and are represented by some of the firearms that we've fallen in love with in our youth and our adulthood, wishing that we too could be like our matinee idols."
Gun expert Tom Diaz has detailed how the NRA and the firearms industry use violent movies to sell more guns, including the role of the “Hollywood Guns” museum exhibit. As he explains, the exhibit is based in the museum's William B. Ruger Gallery, named for the founder of the Sturm, Ruger & Company firearms company. Diaz also points out that Ruger himself blamed violent movies and television for gun violence, not the availability of the firearms themselves.
Diaz also highlights how firearms companies seek to have their guns featured in violent movies, particularly pointing to the rise of Glock handguns as in part a result of their strategy to get the guns into the hands of Hollywood prop houses.
According to the museum's senior curator, the exhibit “is all about phenomenal firearms borrowed from our friends in America's movie capital,” a somewhat kinder description of the movie industry than the one LaPierre provided.