As Executive Producer of “Under the Gun,” a documentary film that explores the epidemic of gun violence, I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL). My question to the VCDL regarding the ability of convicted felons and those on the terror watch list to legally obtain a gun, was followed by an extended pause, making the participants appear to be speechless.
When I screened an early version of the film with the director, Stephanie Soechtig, I questioned her and the editor about the pause and was told that a "beat" was added for, as she described it, “dramatic effect," to give the audience a moment to consider the question. When VCDL members recently pointed out that they had in fact immediately answered this question, I went back and reviewed it and agree that those eight seconds do not accurately represent their response.
VCDL members have a right for their answers to be shared and so we have posted a transcript of their responses here. I regret that those eight seconds were misleading and that I did not raise my initial concerns more vigorously.
I hope we can continue to have an important conversation about reducing gun deaths in America, a goal I believe we can all agree on.
KATIE: If there are no background checks, how do you prevent ... I know how you all are going to answer this, but I'm asking anyway. If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from walking into, say a licensed gun dealer and purchasing a gun?
MALE: Well, one, if you're not in jail then you should still have your basic rights and you should go buy a gun.
KATIE: So, if you're a terrorist or a felon …
MALE: If you're a felon and you've done your time, you should have your rights.
MALE: The fact is we do have statutes, both at the federal and state level that prohibit classes of people from being in possession of firearms. If you're under 18 in Virginia you can't walk around with a gun. If you're an illegal immigrant, if you're a convicted felon, if you've been adjudicated in same, these things are already illegal. So, what we're really asking about is a question of prior restraint. How can we prevent future crime by identifying bad guys before they do anything bad? And, the simple answer is you can't.
And, particularly, under the legal system we have in the United States there are a lot of Supreme Court opinions that say, "No, prior restraint is something that the government does not have the authority to do." Until there is an overt act that allows us to say, "That's a bad guy," then you can't punish him.
FEMALE: I would take another outlook on this. First, I'll ask you what crime or what law has ever stopped a crime? Tell me one law that has ever stopped a crime from happening.