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New Everytown, USC Norman Lear Center Report Highlights Lack of Portrayals of Gun Safety and Gun Violence Prevention in Television


Fewer Than 10% of Television Episodes With Gun-Related Content Include Depictions of Secure Firearm Storage or Discussions of Gun Laws

Report Shows the Impact Depictions of Gun Violence Prevention Measures Can Have on Viewers

NEW YORK — Today, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and the USC Norman Lear Center released a new report that examines how gun safety and gun violence prevention are currently depicted in popular television programming and provides recommendations for how the television industry can improve portrayals. The report analyzed 250 episodes of 33 unique scripted television dramas over two seasons, and found limited depictions or discussions of gun safety and gun violence prevention measures. The research confirms that while rare, when gun safety portrayals do appear, they can have a substantial impact on viewers’ knowledge and attitudes about gun storage and support for common-sense gun laws.

“This new report makes it clear that what we see on television doesn’t reflect the full scope of our nation’s gun violence crisis and the critical importance of gun safety,” said Sophie Yan, director of cultural and entertainment advocacy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “Storylines have the ability to change hearts, minds and behavior, and this report shows there’s more work to be done to make sure gun violence and gun safety are portrayed accurately and responsibly.”

“The frequency and effects of gun violence in entertainment are well-known, but this study is among the first to establish a baseline for portrayals of gun safety and prevention measures and explore the positive impact these portrayals can have on audiences,” said Erica Rosenthal, director of research at the Norman Lear Center. “We know that audiences are more likely to engage in actions they see modeled on-screen. It’s time TV shows normalize secure gun storage.”

Key Findings from the Report:

  • When firearms are present on screen, they are very rarely shown as securely stored, meaning locked in a secure combination or fingerprint safe. Fewer than 10% of television episodes that showed gun-related content included depictions of secure firearm storage or discussions related to gun laws.
  • When portrayals of gun safety do appear in television programs, they can have a substantial impact on viewers’ knowledge, attitudes and support for common sense gun laws. 
    • After viewing a storyline about a child shooting a playmate with an improperly stored gun, viewers reported a greater knowledge of gun safety facts.
    • After viewing a storyline focused on a student’s trauma following an active shooter drill with simulated violence, audience members reported experiencing increased support for drills without simulated violence (e.g., online training, tabletop exercises, lockdown drills), finding such approaches more effective and less emotionally harmful than approaches with simulated violence or having armed law enforcement officers providing security in schools. 
  • Law enforcement officers were involved in the majority of TV firearm depictions. There was a common narrative portraying law enforcement officers as a diverse group of “good guys” fighting against nameless “bad guys.” More than half of casualties from firearms in the shows were white, and more than half had small roles.
    • In reality, Black Americans are three times more likely to be killed by law enforcement.

Accurate depictions of gun safety on television are important because promoting secure firearm storage is a critical step in preventing gun violence, including unintentional shootings, school shootings, and youth gun suicides. An estimated 30 million children in the U.S. live in households with a firearm, and 4.6 million live in a home with at least one loaded and unlocked gun. Inaccurate or reductive depictions of gun safety can obscure the reality of our country’s gun violence crisis. 
For more information, read the full report here.