Another Liberal Lob from NY Times TV Critic Mike Hale, This Time on Gun Control

April 14th, 2011 12:29 PM

New York Times critic Mike Hale’s review of an HBO documentary on the evils of guns, “Gun Fight,” is colored with his liberal perspective. Hale is never hesitant to work in his liberal political opinions into his reviews. He clearly favors left-wing public affairs series like Frontline, and has embraced European-style nationalized health care as clearly superior to the U.S. version (until Obama-care, anyway).

Barbara Kopple’s engrossing, frustrating documentary “Gun Fight” -- it’s not liable to inspire happy thoughts in people on either side of the gun-control debate -- begins with eerie cellphone video footage taken during the Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007, and the aftermath of that rampage provides the film’s emotional ballast.

Ms. Kopple, who in the past has demonstrated her sympathies for labor unions (“Harlan County U.S.A.” and “American Dream,” both Oscar winners) and the Dixie Chicks (“Shut Up and Sing”), gives plenty of time in “Gun Fight” to people who believe that the limits on an American’s right to own and carry a gun should be few or none. ....

The narration-free film, which combines interviews and visits to gun fairs and National Rifle Association conventions with news and archival footage, takes no outright position but is clearly cautionary. It’s an implicit warning about the dangers of unregulated gun ownership and the power and increasingly apocalyptic tone of Second Amendment fundamentalists.

Its point of view hews closest to that of Colin Goddard, a former Corps of Cadets and R.O.T.C. member who was shot four times in a Virginia Tech classroom -- three bullets are still inside him -- and who is now a compelling, not to mention ruggedly handsome, spokesman for gun control. But as in other debates pitting right against left, liberal advocates like Mr. Goddard and Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, seem on the defensive in the film, forced to pursue half-measures like changing gun-show rules while bending over backward to acknowledge their opponents’ reasonableness. There isn’t anything new in the film to upset the gun lobby, but there’s plenty to depress anyone who thinks that the country would be better off with fewer than its tally of some 250 million guns.