The film Under the Gun, produced and narrated by news anchor Katie Couric and directed by Stephanie Soechtig, took a major credibility hit soon after its May release, when it was revealed that the film incorporates footage intentionally manipulated and edited to show, incorrectly, that members of a Virginia-based gun rights group were dumbstruck upon being asked about background checks for gun purchases. In reality, their response was immediate, forceful and articulate, but their four-minute response was replaced, entirely, with eight or nine seconds of mute silence.
After the audiotape of the actual exchange surfaced, Ms. Kouric admitted the deception, “tak[ing] responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL).” (Ms. Soechtig, however, stands by the doctored clip, claiming that the facts in the film are “air-tight” and the edit was only getting attention because it “g[a]ve the NRA something to fixate on.”) In any event, the iMDB movie website now lists this caution about the so-called documentary: “there was a pause edited into the movie following pro-gun enthusiasts being asked a question on background checks. The producers claimed it was for ‘dramatic effect’ but in reality the pro-gun enthusiasts responded almost immediately. This led many to question the film and Katie Couric’s integrity.”
Next, a video interview exposed an interstate gun buy apparently engineered by Ms. Soechtig, who sent a producer, a Colorado resident, to Arizona to purchase firearms, including handguns, in a private sale without a background check. (“And that’s perfectly legal!” exclaims the outraged Ms. Soechtig.) Actually, federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(3), makes it a felony for any person who is not a federal licensee to transport into or receive in the state where he or she resides any firearm purchased or otherwise obtained outside that State. Another federal law, 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(5), generally prohibits the private sale or any delivery of a firearm to a person the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe does not reside in the same state as the transferor.
Hubris appears to have caught up with Under the Gun in yet another episode of creativity run amok, this time regarding an alleged deletion of interview material featuring Dr. John Lott, well-known author of More Guns, Less Crime and a new book, The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies. Dr. Lott had spent approximately six hours being interviewed for Under the Gun. Prior to the film’s release, however, when Ms. Soechtig was asked whether her film featured any gun-rights experts (anyone besides persons “very strongly tilted towards gun control”), she confirmed that Dr. Lott had been interviewed but his input and information were not being used. “We did a great piece on him. He’s the originator of the idea that more guns equal less crime. His research has been criticized and largely discredited, and when we went to include it in the film, it felt like unnecessary real estate to put in the film…We kept going back to the idea that we wanted to reserve the real estate in the film for the responsible gun owners.”
As biased and unscrupulous as the “official” response on the exclusion of John Lott may be, it now appears that some Lott footage made it into the film, but was taken out after Michael Bloomberg allegedly insisted on its removal. According to a recent interview with John Cardillo, “They were going to run it, and Bloomberg and Couric had a private screening and after that screening” the Lott footage was deleted.
Dr. Lott’s newest book, The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies, identifies the probable explanation behind this adjustment of the “real estate.” Michael Bloomberg, founder of the Everytown gun-control group, and other gun-control proponents are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on producing false and misleading information because they have seen from polls that this makes a difference. They know that if they are going to win the gun debate, they must change people’s perceptions. For some hardcore supporters of the right to self-defense, these studies might not matter. But Bloomberg and others know that for the broad majority of Americans in the middle of the debate, bombarding them with false claims about guns can make a big difference.
(Or, to borrow the phraseology of Ms. Soechtig, “When they can continue to spew their rhetoric unchallenged, they can continue to stay on point and on brand.”)
While truth may be the ultimate weapon in the gun debate, for the anti-gun debaters, truth seems to be the first casualty.