Gun Nation, a documentary short by renowned photographer Zed Nelson, offers an engaging and thought-provoking look into the deep-seated gun culture in the United States. The film, which is based on his 2000 photography book of the same title, seeks to examine what lies beneath the US’s enduring love of guns and why its citizens continue to be resistant to even modest gun law reforms despite (or perhaps because of) the substantial death toll caused by firearms each year.
The narrative begins with a sobering statistic: since Nelson’s book was published, there have been over half a million deaths due to firearms in America. The documentary then explores this topic through interviews with several individuals who have varying points of view on the matter. These interviewees include shop owners who freely admit they can order 100 machine guns without any difficulty; police chiefs voicing their concern about open carry laws that grant people permission to take firearms into restaurants, bars and parks; medical examiners highlighting how most shooting deaths occur in domestic situations involving otherwise law abiding citizens; and finally a father still mourning the loss of his 15-year old son at Columbine High School in 1999 and wondering why more hasn’t been done in 17 years to prevent similar tragedies.
The viewer also bears witness to two of Gun Nation’s most prominent subjects: a Texas man whose photo – holding an infant with one arm and pistol with the other – sparked controversy among those who saw it as child endangerment versus those who viewed it as an expression of his devotion to protecting his family. Another issue covered is that of assault weapons’ increasing prevalence across the nation as well as the vast influence wielded by organizations such as the National Rifle Association (NRA). Lastly, another point addressed is whether arming teachers could be used as a measure to help keep schools safe from gun violence.
Although Gun Nation does not provide answers that are simple or satisfying, it does offer powerful insights into America’s highly divisive gun culture. For anyone looking for greater understanding on this subject matter or simply wishing to learn more about it, watching this documentary can prove both informative and rewarding.