Interview with Barbara Kopple

  • Issues surrounding gun violence are all-too-frequently in the news in this country. What was your approach to this hot-button subject?

  • Well, I never have an agenda before I start making a film. So for me, it was more a film about life and death, about deeply held passions, about victims trying to find ways to fight back, because guns change our lives in a snap of a finger. Gun violence happens in every community, it affects people of every race and every class and every color. Gun violence happens in homes, on street corners, campuses. And there?s no way to predict who will be the victim of gun violence. These are the realities that we found while making this film. There are many passionate people on both sides of the issue. We wanted to understand what this is about, in our country, in our culture, in our way of life, in our political system. What inspires this kind of passion?

  • What did you discover?

  • Well, there aren?t any easy answers. What we were struggling to do is peel back some of the layers to get a closer look at the heart of the issue. I came away believing very strongly that there are things we should do to limit gun violence in this country. I think there are really sensible ideas and new laws that should be enacted to keep guns out of the hands of people who are most likely going to use them for violence.

    (Film subject) Colin Goddard ? who was one of the survivors at Virginia Tech ? instead of being a victim he?s gone out and done so much with his life. He has a quote that?s pretty amazing, he says: ?I want to see an America where people are safe, no matter where they go.? And I think that?s something we can aspire to. I think this is a country that wants to protect the rights of the living, like the students of Virginia Tech, like Congressman Giffords and so many other victims of gun violence.

  • All the evidence seems to suggest that more guns only make us more violent, yet many people in this country believe that guns make us safer. What do you think that says about us as a society?

  • Guns have been woven throughout American culture as an integral part of our ideas, from Hollywood to manhood. They?re tied to ideas of freedom, of self-reliance, of power. Guns are a primary influence of youth culture, in video games and movies and TV. They?re embedded in rural culture, urban culture. Guns are intimately tied to our American identity. And that makes the gun debate very political and complicated because everybody is filled with different deep convictions on each side of the argument. This is a life-and-death issue, and one that must be confronted with level heads and sensible solutions.