Show Gun Safety – Modeling Safe Gun Use in TV and Film

By Giving List Staff   |   November 17, 2023
Brady President Kris Brown (center) with Show Gun Safety leaders at the White House in April 2023.

In the world of TV and cinema, being shot with a handgun often has the fallout of a stubbed toe or insect bite, with the gunshot victim clutching their upper arm or stomach and wincing, then launching into expertly choreographed fisticuffs. It does not show the true, gruesome fallout from a gunshot – the wound, or death itself; the life-changing reverberations of losing that loved one. 

What might be the social and policy outcome if our popular entertainments reflected the actual ramifications of someone taking a real-world bullet – the horrific deficits attached to actual gunfire, the devastating consequences of a family gun left lying around the house unsecured? If the question seems fanciful, consider the profound, well-correlated influence Hollywood has had on public attitudes – and practices – around other such important subjects such as drunk driving, smoking, and seatbelt use. 

Brady’s Show Gun Safety leaders meet with Biden Administration officials at the White House in April 2023

Brady United’s Show Gun Safety program is taking this precedent and codifying it – working with the film and television industries to very intentionally address the way gun handling is portrayed on screen. History suggests this will organically normalize a responsible gun culture that has thus far eluded our legislative process here in the U.S.

“My daughter was shot at her school. A 16-year-old kid she didn’t even know brought a ghost gun to school, turned it towards a group that my daughter happened to be standing with – and started firing. She was wounded and survived.” Those are the words of a screenwriter named Sean Tretta. “The reality,” he says, “was our daughter coming home with a six-inch channel in her abdomen from a 45-caliber bullet. Her mom and I had to follow a very specific treatment regimen each day so the wound would heal from the inside out.”

When President Reagan’s Press Secretary, James Brady, survived a permanently debilitating head wound during an attempt on the president’s life back in 1981, he and his wife, Sarah, founded Brady United. The nonprofit advocates for responsible gun ownership and was instrumental in passage of the bipartisan Brady Bill, which strengthened the background check. The Brady Background Check system has blocked approximately four million prohibited purchasers from obtaining a firearm. But the signing of the Brady Bill was only the beginning of Brady United’s work. 

Brady United’s Show Gun Safety initiative emerged in the wake of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where a teenaged intruder fatally shot 19 children and two teachers, and injured 17 others. In response, a group of some 200 top Hollywood writers, producers, and directors signed and published an open letter, pledging to incorporate gun safety best practices into their storylines. Two dozen Hollywood actors, directors, and showrunners later took part in a roundtable discussion at the White House concerning the role Hollywood and the screenwriting community can play in combating the gun violence epidemic. 

“There often is this feeling of helplessness,” says writer/director Tretta. “Show Gun Safety is a way for this industry to help change the culture. At the core of this program are some of the most experienced and successful writers and show runners in our business. They’ve reached millions and millions of people over the course of their careers, and will continue to do so.”

Christian Heyne is Brady United’s Vice President of Policy. “In 2005, my parents were shot in a horrific incident in Southern California, in Ventura County. My dad survived multiple gunshot wounds. My mom, unfortunately, was shot and killed. Through Brady United I met other survivors, and was made aware of the ways in which we can meaningfully address gun violence in America. The cultural work that we’re doing through Show Gun Safety will tackle our country’s gun violence epidemic from a social norming perspective.” Brady United’s Jared Milrad, J.D., concurs, and explains a killing irony. “The rating system has a sanitizing effect. If you want the broadest base of people to see your show, you can’t be gruesome in your depiction. So by trying to protect the viewer from the grotesqueness of gun violence, we’re inadvertently desensitizing and devaluing the weight that people carry as a result of real gun violence. Now we’re convening a group of people who can help facilitate action in the entertainment industry – an industry ready to do their part to lead this desperately-needed change.”


Brady | United Against Gun Violence

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REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE 25% BY 2025. They say it can’t be done. But we can do anything. Even end the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. For we are more powerful than any problem when we work as one. Under Kris Brown’s leadership, Brady unites people of all identities, races, and ethnicities from coast to coast, young and old, progressive and conservative, and everything in between, fed up and fired up, to protect our country from what is killing it. It’s in our hands.

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I’m proud to support Brady’s groundbreaking Show Gun Safety campaign to be more intentional about how guns are portrayed on screen. We in the creative community must do our part to create a safer America free of gun violence — and that change can start in the characters we create and the stories we tell.
Piper Perabo,
Golden Globe-nominated actor (YELLOWSTONE)

Seatbelts in TV Shows Saved Lives – Let’s Do the Same by Showing Safe Use of Guns

Brady is raising $1,000,000 to fund the national expansion of our Show Gun Safety Culture Change campaign in 2024. Cultural attitudes and behaviors around smoking, drunk driving, and seatbelts have all evolved due in large part to the powerful influence of film and television. We’re taking on gun safety – and need your support to transform Hollywood’s portrayal of guns. 100% of your donation will help us change our gun safety culture and free America from gun violence.

Key Supporters

Judd Apatow
Shonda Rhimes
Adam McKay
Mark Ruffalo
Jimmy Kimmel
Amy Schumer
Glen Mazzara
Piper Perabo
Bradley Whitford