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The Glamorization of Guns in the Media

Guns in Media feature image

How have guns become glamorized?

One of the primary ways Americans learn about guns is through entertainment media, specifically movies, and TV shows. You may have noticed that firearms aren’t promoted through the traditional means of advertising. You likely won’t see an advertisement during a commercial break on mainstream TV and radio shows.

Gun manufacturers learned that Hollywood would be pleased to use guns as product placements in its films and TV shows. According to an article by Dan Romer and Patrick E. Jamieson, “The gun industry saw this when the Dirty Harry movies showcased the .44 Magnum, a large and powerful handgun, which led to a jump in U.S. sales of the Smith & Wesson Model 29. In 2011, the handgun maker Glock even got a lifetime achievement award from the product placement-tracking site Brandchannel for its appearances in action movies.”

This connection between the portrayal of guns by the entertainment industry and the customer’s desire to own them seems apparent and direct. While this indicates social behaviors in terms of purchasing firearms, there are other potential adverse effects related to aggressive behavior and acts of violence involving guns.

Guns in Media - Dirty Harry
Clint Eastwood used a .44 Magnum revolver in the movie Dirty Harry.

What’s the impact of the glamorization of guns in the media?

Romer and Jamieson explain this through research they conducted by writing, “In recent years, we have been examining trends in the use of guns in movies and TV. In one study, we found that the use of guns in top-grossing movies rated PG-13 — open to children of all ages — had increased to the point where their use was more frequent than in R-rated movies, the traditional home for such violence.”

“More recently, we examined trends in the use of guns for violent purposes in top-ranked primetime TV dramas, notably in the police, medical and legal genres. We found that from 2000 to 2018, the amount of gun violence doubled as a percentage of those shows. Even more concerning, the proportion of violence attributable to guns had also steadily increased over that period. A viewer of those shows will not only see the increasing use of guns but when there is violence, they’ll see guns as the weapon of choice for inflicting harm on others.”

“We compared the trend in TV gun violence with the proportion of U.S. homicides attributable to firearms over the same period. Here we saw some surprising parallels, especially for young people. The more TV shows portrayed the use of guns in violent scenes in a year, the greater the proportion of homicides committed with guns in that year. Although it did so for other age groups, the relation was strongest for those ages of 15-24. “

Guns in Media - Criminal Minds
Researchers looked at dozens of TV shows involving guns (such as Criminal Minds, shown above) to determine if there was a correlation between guns in media and violent behavior.

“In addition to the impact on the behavior of young people, there is data found in a 2002 article by Kenneth Dowler (found in the American Journal of Criminal Justice and cited on the website of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice) which shows how viewership of specific media directly impacts the opinions regarding gun ownership and gun control.

“The findings of Dowler’s research and article are summarized as follows, “‘Examining the ability of the media to shape perceptions and mold attitudes, known as cultivation theory, this study was based on data derived from the 1995 National Opinion Survey on Crime and Justice telephone survey. Descriptive analysis of results from the 1,005 adults surveyed indicates that 42.5 percent of respondents were regular viewers of crime drama and that television was the primary crime news source, 66 percent, compared to newspapers at 20 percent. Additionally, 32.6 percent of respondents indicated that it should be easier to carry concealed weapons, with 33.7 percent arguing that being armed was the best defense against criminals. The author maintains that crime drama viewers and television news consumers are more likely to oppose gun control efforts, demonstrating that crime show viewing does influence attitudes towards guns and gun control.'”

The effects of exposure to guns in popular culture have some pretty clear parallels that trickle down into our daily lives. There is a psychology to it that advertisers in every industry (including the gun industry) have embraced when it comes to product placement. Hollywood sells a lifestyle on the big screen and that impacts social behaviors across our nation.

Guns in Media - Scarface
Guns in media go all the way back to the days of black and white films, like in the movie Scarface (pictured above).

We saw some similarities in old movies dating back to black and white films, where cigarettes were glamorized and made to look trendy. One of the most iconic movie posters is Audrey Hepburn with a cigarette holder in her mouth, smoking a cigarette. Smoking was portrayed as hip and cool without regard to the long-term effects of tobacco usage. The negative effects of smoking tobacco far outweigh how hip one looks smoking a long, lean cigarette in a classy cigarette holder. This comparison paints a picture of the impact of visualizations in the media.

Research indicates that the media has some potentially negative impacts and adverse effects on how guns are viewed and used. At Concealed Coalition, we are interested in educating and equipping you with the right tools to safely and properly own and carry guns.

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