One Year Later: Networks Remember Newtown with 39 Gun Deaths Week Before Anniversary

Do gun-controllers notice network, cable dramas awash in violence?
  • 14 prime time dramas
  • 149 acts of violence
  • 104 acts of gun violence
  • 39 deaths by gun

Saturday, Dec. 14 marks a year since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. In the run-up to that tragic anniversary, Americans can expect to hear demands for gun control from sanctimonious Hollywood stars, just as they did in the wake of the shooting.

Their demands were hypocritical then, and they’re even more hypocritical now. The entertainment industry makes huge profits depicting and often even glorifying violence – especially gun violence. For proof, look no farther than the top TV dramas that anchor prime time for both the broadcast networks and basic cable channels.

There were at least 145 acts of violence in just 14 of the highest-rated dramas airing the week before the anniversary. Of those, at least 101 involved guns, resulting in at least 39 gun deaths. “At least” is a necessary qualification because three of the shows, “The Walking Dead,” “NCIS Los Angeles” and “Sons of Anarchy,” featured long, multi-participant gun battles.

Of course, guns were only part of the violence. There were scenes of torture (“Scandal”), Beheadings (“The Walking Dead,” “Sleepy Hollow”), beatings, etc. That’s because violence is a big part of the product Hollywood puts out. And though Hollywood loves to pat itself on the back for helping to affect social change it likes (see gay rights), it never wants to take credit for impacting the culture for the worse. Certainly that’s the case with gun violence.

It’s just a connection Hollywood is afraid to make. In the wake of Newtown, film-maker Quentin Tarantino, whose trademark is lovingly depicted, over-the top violence, dismissed the notion that on-screen mayhem can spur the real-life kind. To question the link between entertainment and violence is, he said “totally disrespectful to [the Sandy Hook victims’] memory. Obviously, the issue is gun control and mental health.” Story Continues after the video.

But one of the nation’s leading gun control advocates, who happens to be a great friend of Hollywood, doesn’t think it’s that obvious. In 2012, Barack Obama out-raised Mitt Romney in entertainment industry contributions 16 – 1, he’s cozy with A-list actors and power brokers, and he’s asked for their help selling his agenda through their products. But in November, during yet another West Coast fundraising trip, Obama raised the issue of violence in a speech at the DreamWorks studio. “We have got to make sure we are not glorifying it,” the president said. “The stories we tell matter. And you tell stories more powerfully than anybody else on the Earth.”

Sanctimony and Celebs

Newtown shocked the nation, and people of all political stripes sought ways to keep similar incidents from happening again. Unfortunately, to most liberals the answer is always more and more gun control, whether their proposed measures would have prevented Sandy Hook or not.

Hollywood liberals were no exception. At the behest of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) a group of prominent actors and actresses made a video urging the public to “Demand a Plan” to end gun violence. Two of the participants, Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Renner, had extremely violent movies in theaters when the PSA appeared.

Others offered their thoughts on Twitter: “Any1 who would run out to buy an assault rifle after the Newtown massacre has very little left in their body or soul worth protecting” tweeted Jim Carrey. Carrey later appeared in the film “Kick-Ass 2,” of which he then said he “cannot support that level of violence.”

Sylvester Stallone – he of “Rambo” and “The Expendables” – told an interviewer, “I know people get (upset) and go, ‘They're going to take away the assault weapon.’ Who ... needs an assault weapon? Like really, unless you're carrying out an assault. ... You can't hunt with it. ... Who's going to attack your house, a [expletive] army?”

At the Sundance Film Festival last winter, few celebrities seemed to understand their hypocrisy as they bashed the Second Amendment and opined on what kinds of guns private citizens don’t need.

Celebrity anti-gun grandstanding has continued. In October, comedian Bette Midler tweeted during the government shutdown her frustration with a “Congress that votes against gun control, and shuts down the gov't over affordable healthcare.”

In November, America-hating director Michael Moore blamed (wait for it!) America for gun violence. “I think the NRA they got it half-right when they say ‘Guns don't kill people, people kill people.’ I change it to ‘Guns don't kill people, Americans kill people’,” he told an interviewer. 

Small Screen, Big Violence

In one week, 145 acts of violence in just 14 of the top rated shows on prime time TV. The total could have been higher, since several potentially violent shows didn’t air that week because of network scheduling. And there are many violent lower-rated dramas as well.

To be sure, a lot of the violence was committed by good guys pursuing justice or defending themselves. But since weapons bans, new laws limiting the capacity of magazines and other gun control measures don’t distinguish good from bad or divine intent, violence on TV should be held to the same standard.

On “The Walking Dead,” zombie killings weren’t counted – just violence between humans. In that one episode alone, there were 20 violent deaths, including two by samurai sword (one a beheading) and several by hand grenade.

In the first moments of “NCIS-LA,” (6 gun deaths) a paramilitary DEA team was ambushed inside a drug lord’s mansion and wiped out in a hail of gunfire. On “Sons of Anarchy” (11 gun deaths) one character, unhappy about getting the blood of his victims in his hair, put four extra rounds into each of his victims. On “Elementary” (2 gun deaths) an already dead woman was shot point blank with a shotgun to destroy her heart and evidence of poisoning. On “Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” there was just one act of gun violence, but three victims were incinerated alive, one with a fireball shot through his torso.

Clearly, prime time TV is awash in violence, and gun violence in particular. Movies are as well, and violent imagery (and real-life violent behavior) infuses hip-hop music. The public would do well to keep that in mind as celebrities pop up to ridicule the Second Amendment and make pronouncements about which weapons are acceptable and which should be confiscated.

It’s all well and good for entertainers to preen about their role in changing attitudes and behaviors in ways they like. But they can’t have it both ways when it comes to the wanton violence they serve up every week.


CMI selected the top 20 dramas by Neilson ratings on broadcast and basic cable TV. Because of Network scheduling, only 14 of them aired episodes between Dec. 1 and Dec. 7. We counted acts of violence, acts of gun violence specifically, and gun deaths.