Anyone amendable to hearing other sides in the gun safety debate probably knows a lot of the basic talking points in Stephanie Soechtig’s “Under the Gun.” Especially considering that the film is narrated by newscaster Katie Couric, the documentary feels like a cobbled-together series of the news reports we must endure following the latest mass shooting. Some new aspect of the struggle to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous men comes to light based on the circumstances of the murder and/or murderer.
The film runs through many established talking points and issues of contention readily established in the national conversation – background checks, mental health, stymied research – in its first half. When Soechtig and Couric finally introduce some more novel concepts towards its close, “Under the Gun” has already created a lull from a familiar rhythm. It tries to score more points, perhaps at the cost of making them all effectively.
Still, the loophole allowing anyone to buy a gun if their background check cannot clear in 72 hours, or the fact that the ATF can only inspect a gun dealer once per year, or that 5% of bad apple dealers sell 90% of the guns responsible for firearm deaths ought to rattle a few cages.
As always, with each problem raised, the common sense solution appears so simple yet so frustratingly out of reach. “Under the Gun” is not about the vilification of gun owners, instead focusing its anger on lobbying class and the corporate interests of gun manufacturing that hold the entire nation hostage. At the end of the day, so much of the continued pain in this country comes from the NRA acting on behalf of these industrialists and peddling misguided fear of government arms seizure to their members – most of which support obvious safety measures.
“Under the Gun” does struggle with an uneasy give and take between anger at the enablers of the malefactors and the sympathy for the families left devastated by these senseless killings. Yet even so, the film is highly literate and competent in the kind of premium cable documentary activism that has become so prevalent in the streaming era. Now the question is whether this changes the right hearts and minds. B /