“Makes some excellent points while simultaneously pulling at the viewers’ emotions.”

by Martin Hafer

Under the Gun, Fed Up director Stephanie Soechtig’s latest documentary, is about increased gun control, which is a huge issue here in the United States. Full disclosure: It’s important that you understand that I am a gun owner. I own several guns and have had training on how to use them safely. My guns are always under lock and key when I am not using them. So, at the outset I have a certain bias against a film promoting some of the things that Under the Gun promotes — though, I would argue that most viewers will have some sort of bias, which is only natural. I also felt Under the Gun occasionally misses the mark. Yet, despite its flaws the film is very well made, makes some excellent points and is the sort of documentary that you need to watch with some Kleenex handy, as it’s very effective–especially when you hear the heartbreaking stories of the victims of gun violence.

Under the Gun is not necessarily in favor of the confiscation of guns or preventing people from legally purchasing them. This is important because if that was the thrust of the film, I would not be recommending you see it–especially since confiscating the hundreds of millions of guns in this country is logistically impossible. Instead, it talks about a few problems which are apparently in the way of a more rational American gun policy. Often I find myself agreeing with the film wholeheartedly. After all, if background checks make mistakes and the wrong sort of people get guns, then that is a problem we need to remedy. Likewise, I can understand their dislike of the NRA…heck, even a lot of gun owners don’t agree with many of the organization’s positions. It makes all these points very well. What it doesn’t do, however, is always hit the bulls-eye, so to speak. At one point, the film seems to champion suing gun manufacturers instead of focusing on the folks committing the crime…much like folks who want to sue tobacco companies or fast food companies for their health problems.

Under the Gun
Directed by
Stephanie Soechtig
Katie Couric, Ted Cruz
Release Date
13 May 2016
Martin’s Grade: B-

I believe in individual choice…so this part of the film really bothered me. Likewise, it really, really bothered me when the film is pushing for full background checks (something most Americans endorse, by the way) but never once mentions that folks who are convicted criminals, dangerously mentally ill or spousal abusers are almost never prosecuted when they do these background checks now. According to Politifact, only about 44 prosecutions resulted from over 80,000 of these illegal attempts to purchase guns…and not mentioning this in the film seems like a very curious omission. I don’t understand why this was never mentioned….and Politifact is hardly a right-wing organization.

Despite my many misgivings, I cannot discount the film as it makes some excellent points while simultaneously pulling at the viewers’ emotions. The documentary is very well made and you cannot discount much of what it’s trying to say. But blaming mostly the NRA, gun manufacturers and gun store owners alone just seems rather simplistic. However, whether I agree with a film 100% of the time is not the same as to whether or not it’s a good film or one worth seeing. This one is generally well made and makes some very convincing points…and shouldn’t be ignored. We need to talk openly and honestly about gun violence…not just in the States but throughout the world. I would just like to see a film about gun violence that offers a bit more balance and a more comprehensive list of solutions.

While I don’t always agree with its conclusions and its omissions, it is thought-provoking and worth seeing.