The Guns Thing



I recently attended a lecture on law enforcement which partially explained why gun crime is so low in the UK (knife crime being the bigger problem). It turns out that police are less fussed about finding illegal firearms than controlling ammunition. If you can’t get the bullets, you can’t open fire. But there was another, more bizarre reason  put forward, for which we have gangsta rap videos to thank. You can copy the gangsta pose, arms high and wide, hands pointed down, pistols turned on their sides, but you can’t actually fire a gun in that position; you’ll shoot yourself in the feet.

Guns are everywhere, though. Say you feel like seeing a film and surf through ads and trailers looking for something appealing. See how long it is before you spot your first gun. Actually don’t, because it will find you. Once the taboo image for use on a film poster, firearms became ubiquitous, but for a while the only way you could show a gun on a UK film ad was by featuring it from the side, and not pointing at you, as this would be considered aggressive and easy to imitate.


Occasionally there’s upset when a poster showing a gunman gets put up beside a nursery school, but I was more bothered by the poster for ‘London Has Fallen’, which showed a bomb blast in the city centre. That’s an image we really don’t need from Hollywood right now.

You would think, given America’s terrible problem with gun crime, that Hollywood might ease up on the gun-as-fetish-item tropes, but if anything they’re taking weapons to a new level. The poster for ‘Keanu’, featuring guns and a cute kitten, manages to combine this fetishism with the other main Hollywood marker; treacly sentiment. Yes, it’s meant to be funny, although as the film is marketed at black audiences I’m not sure how that mindset works.


But of course Hollywood needs young bucks. Trapped in a state of permanent adolescence, it is required to celebrate testosterone in the limited ways available, which may explain why TV entertainment has taken another path. New shows are more likely to be based around supernatural storylines than gun crime, stranding critical disasters like ‘Suicide Squad’ in cinemas with undelivered promises of nastiness. ‘Dead pool’ played it both ways, celebrating OTT violence with a wink, and came up with this not exactly subtle gun-as-phallic-object image.


Last week I went to see ‘Jason Bourne’, a film which consists of the same chase sequence repeated four times with variations in four different cities. About 75% of the film comprised jittery-cam footage of men with guns walking through crowds looking for someone, while about 10% was people staring urgently at computers that could miraculously perform things your Apple can’t – like disconnect someone’s laptop from an old analogue phone. That, too, had a poster with a gun on it, appropriate for a film about a man saving American citizens from death while wiping out about a third of Europe.

But without guns, how would Hollywood ever manage to tell a story?

14 comments on “The Guns Thing”

  1. Ness says:

    I used to be a sporting shooter and found it hilarious when newbies tried to hold their guns like Hollywood action stars. Holding a handgun sideways may look dramatic but the slide comes back and tears your flesh or pinches into you and you don’t actually hit anything. Hold it the wrong way sideways and the searing hot brass cases being ejected also hit you in the face. Hollywood hurts.

    Target shooting actually relies on getting your breathing right and is almost like meditation – it does actually calm you down. Even having caffeine in your system ruins your aim and you can’t do it when you are upset or angry.

    All the fast, bad guy shooting in movies also amuses me as you can’t actually hit anything beyond the first shot, except by accident. Hollywood guns also have extra amazing replenishing clips with seemingly unlimited bullets. So without magic guns Hollywood would be stuffed and they may actually have to develop some characters or plot. Probably about as likely to happen as America actually developing some sensible gun laws.

  2. T. Stewart says:

    Comedian Chris Rock came up with Bullet Control a few years ago:

    I find it a little sad that even otherwise apparently intelligent people can’t resist the impulse to classify every single one of the 324,283,155+ population of America as gun-happy, and unable to make a film without guns. I tend to doubt you’re thrilled when Brits are portrayed as having bad food and bad teeth.

  3. admin says:

    I don’t think anyone here cares about the ‘bad food, bad teeth’ thing because it’ s such a hilariously dated image, like the French even knowing who Jerry Lewis is. The ‘bad food’ thing was the result of US servicemen eating in ABCs (Associated British Cafes) after the war. These were government-sponsored cheap cafes designed to feed an undernourished populace for a shilling, and the image stuck with them when they went home.
    The latter predates NHS dental health programs (1946), but the British will always be Hollywood villains, sexy rock stars or posh totty, just as Australians are always gormless oafs and people of colour are drug dealers (although this last is – slowly – starting to go, thank God).

  4. Jan says:

    Steady on Chris – forget the bad teeth bad grub quip. Think on what else is being said.
    No one can possibly know what the majority opinion of America’s 324,283,155 + or – is on this topic.

  5. Jan says:

    I know I am a,decade out of date as far as London is concerned. One thing I can remember. Is that in the early 1990s British A + E doctors and senior nurses,were going to Chicago and New York to study how emergency care was delivered for gunshot wounds. By the mid 2000s other British and European cities were sending emergency teams,to major London A+ Es to see how their teams coped with gunshot wounds…..I’m not aware of any major turnarounds since then

  6. Jan says:

    Unless you consider that East London A+ Es are considered to be amongst the very best places to receive care for gunshot trauma. Things can’t be too great out,there as these guys are getting very skilled

  7. Roger says:

    It used to be Belfast people ddoctors and nurses went to for training in dealing with gunshot wounds.
    Is the ineffective shooting technique on films a deliberate ploy perhaps – a kind of benign conspiracy to reduce the harm caused?
    There’s a big difference between target shooting and shooting to stay alive, Ness. You’re likely to be breathing hard, very annoyed (if not terrified) and far from meditative. With a semi-automatic pistol I was taught to aim quickly slightly to the left and below the centre of your target and fire regularly. The barrel rises a little and moves slightly to the right each time you fire and you’ll hit your target fairly soon.
    Unless they shoot you first of course.
    Fortunately I never had to try it out.

  8. Vivienne says:

    I do some voluntary work which brings me into contact with the Met police. Last year went to a talk about the armed chaps. London armed police were only deployed about 10 times in the year before and didn’t fire once. There are more guns used in Manchester but there really isn’t much in London.

  9. Wayne Mook says:

    Homicide (murder, manslaughter and infanticide.) has been falling for some time in the UK, the last figures for England & Wales shows 518 murders for the year upto March 2015, of which 21 were by firearm, 186 by knife or other sharp instrument this was the highest about 1 in 3.

    World rate of murder according to Wikipedia 6.2 per 100,000 population in 2012

    Canada rate 1.4 (per 100,00) actual number 505 – 2013

    United States 3.9 (per 100,00) actual number 12,253 – 2013

    United Kingdom 0.9 (per 100,00) actual number 602 – 2013

    According to the FBI, in 2012, there were 8,897 total firearm-related homicides in the US, with 6,404 of those attributed to handguns.

    We may have a wonderful NHS for treating gun shots but we don’t have a that much gun crime.

    Here is the good news apart from the occasional blip murder is on the way down in through out the world, 2004 world murder rate was 7.2.


  10. Ness says:

    So I’m a gormless oaf suffering from bad food and bad teeth? Now that’s a winning combination. I may have to go and watch a Hollywood movie to change my reality.

  11. Charles (another one) says:

    My understanding of the situation re the expertise in UK treatment of gun shot wounds was the skills base developed by NHS doctors who volunteer, either through Territorial Army (the voluntary arm of the UK services) or other service experience, received in combats zones worldwide and not in the UK where gun crime is almost non-existent (see above), now. This is why incidents such as the recent shooting/stabbing of Jo Cox are so shocking.

    I have never really minded gun play in movies, games, or indeed books which are fictional. I do remember though being reduced to tears at the scenes in Heat, where a school party was in the cross fire; I only saw it a couple of days after one of the more infamous school shootings in the US, so it really hit home.

    And where would the western be without guns, even though, again, we know in reality ‘shoot-outs’ were very rare at that time, and place. It’s probably similar to the reality that most cowboys were of central and southern American origin and not white/Anglo origin…

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Mind you, my grandfather saw a man shot to death in a saloon in Montana (?) in the 1890s. I don’t know how many shots were fired or what started the whole thing – nor do I know what he was doing in the saloon in the first place.

  13. Charles (another one) says:

    I should have put know in inverted commas!

    Great come back Helen…

  14. Peter says:

    I’ve never understood the UK bad teeth story. Having lived in various countries in Europe and in the US, my impression is that UK teeth are better than most. They might not be as good as they were before dentists started leaving the NHS. And our actors tend to have ordinary looking teeth, not the super white enamel of Hollywood.

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