Review: “Gun Fight”

There are a few great debates in this country that may never be settled. Abortion is one. First Amendment exceptions is another. The argument over the right to bear arms, though, is one that can’t even have that “may” in there. No kind of evidence, imaginable or unimaginable, is going to come out of nowhere and prove that guns should be permitted, controlled or banned. It’s just always going to be a balance of beliefs and opinion. That doesn’t mean the topic shouldn’t continue to be debated for eternity, and I certainly welcome any documentary that wants to take either side strongly. Unfortunately, there’s this misconception lately that non-fiction films have to be “objective” and include all points of view. It’s a misconception that makes Barbara Kopple’s latest, “Gun Fight,” a major disappointment.

The film, which premiered this week on HBO, has a fairly clear allegiance to the gun control position based on who it follows most predominantly: Virginia Tech victim turned lobbyist Colin Goddard (who also is the focus of Kevin Breslin’s recent Sundance entry, “Living for 32”) and a doctor who’s seen enough bullet wounds in the ER that he’s become an advocate on the issue. These subjects are not characters so much as props on a cluttered stage without a play or purpose. “Gun Fight” simply catches viewers up on issues concerning the Second Amendment, especially since the VT massacre four years ago but also referencing Columbine a lot and, tacked on at the end, an acknowledgment of January’s shooting in Tucson.

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