"We saw the issue get engulfed in the gun control debate," EIC president and CEO Brian Dyak said. "It seemed like some of the other mental-health ramifications as related to the issue were put by the wayside. The gun-control debate was overshadowing more human, realistic depictions. So once all the legislation failed, we felt there was a desperate need to keep the issue of decreasing gun violence and increasing gun safety alive."
He said the EIC, which does not take a stand on the issue of gun control, is providing information neither the National Rifle Assoc. nor pro-gun control groups would oppose. "Both sides would agree because (the campaign) doesn't polarize people and promotes public health, and our industry has a valuable role to play in that," he said.
The EIC, a nonprofit group with industry support that promotes awareness of major health and social issues within the entertainment community and to audiences at-large, recently mailed out 1,900 copies of a publication titled "Picture This," which serves as a guide to key issues on the subject of gun violence.
"It gets rid of some of the myths and starts looking at the issue more realistically as to how guns fit in our culture and society," Dyak said. "Historically, it's been very easy to exploit it; we're saying, if you're going to exploit it, exploit it in the right context, in ways that add to character development and storyline and that can promote better public health and safety."
In addition to sending "Picture This" to showrunners, development executives, writers, producers and directors in film and television, the EIC will be sending out e-mails to 800 people working on TV shows or programs in development throughout the productions season.
The EIC also will provide free briefings on any aspects of gun violence or safety requested by film or television productions. It also is expanding its EDGE Awards, launched for the first time last year to recognize the creative community's achievements in accurately depicting gun use and safety. The awards were sent out by mail in 2004, but this year they will be presented at a ceremony scheduled for November.
Most of the issues addressed by the EIC campaign were gleaned from meetings held at the beginning of 2004 with representatives of 22 Washington-based advocacy groups that have dealt with the issue of gun violence.
The campaign includes information on firearm safety and storage, including lock boxes, child-resistant trigger locks, load indicators and magazine disconnects, which prevent guns from firing once the magazine is removed. It also discusses the prospect of a minimum size requirement for guns in an age of international terrorism.
The EIC material addresses the fact that guns, when not stored properly, frequently are used by older children to commit suicide. It talks about gun violence that can be triggered by such health-related issues as alcohol abuse, drug abuse and mental illness, and it notes guns frequently are used in domestic-violence disputes, with four times as many women being murdered by guns shot by their husbands or acquaintances than are killed by strangers using guns, knives and all other weapons combined.
The gun-campaign publications also note that despite the depiction of urban and minority gun violence in television and film, most mass shootings have been committed by white youth in suburban or rural settings. "The demographics of gun violence are characters that don't fit into false stereotypes," Dyak said.
In its campaign, the EIC also encourages the creative community to take a look at the unexplored reality of what happens in the aftermath of gun violence. "We don't usually look that deeply into the character," Dyak said. "It's a challenge to the creative community to show a more well-rounded depiction of the reality of a gunshot wound."