PBS America Snaps Up Frontline’s NRA Documentary ‘Gunned Down’

Heston NRA

PBS America is set to shine a light on America’s most powerful lobby group: the National Rifle Association.

The channel has acquired the UK rights to Gunned Down: The Power Of The NRA, a one-hour documentary which was originally produced for PBS in the United States as part of their current affairs strand Frontline.

The documentary, which is set to premiere on PBS America on Thursday March 19th at 9pm, takes a look at this organisation which through several successive presidencies – beginning with the Johnson administration in the 1960s – has deployed their resources to block any attempts to control gun ownership (a right under the second amendment to the US constitution) and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, despite the high levels of gun related deaths in the United States.

At the core of Gunned Down is the shooting incident at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, which left 20 children and 6 members of the school’s staff dead. Using this as something of an anchor, director Michael Kirk attempts to weave a broader narrative of the NRAs rise to their position as the most powerful lobbying group and ultimately how they used that power to prevent the Obama administration from passing any new gun control laws in the wake of Sandy Hook.

That broader narrative includes how the NRA shifted from its relatively benign beginnings to become a right-wing gun advocacy group in the 1970s. As well as their history of utilising their very vocal and passionate membership to convince legislators to oppose any new bills; how Clinton’s successes in the 1990s were in the end helpful to the NRA in raising their membership numbers; and in turn how Al Gore’s association with said successes resulted in NRA deploying $20 million in campaign ad buys, opposing Gore’s candidacy for the Presidency in 2000.

As with every entry in the Frontline strand, the team behind Gunned Down has assembled an evocative documentary which is likely to be something of a culture shock for UK viewers. This is achieved by interviewing countless individuals, such as Vice-President Biden, former NRA executives dismayed by recent strategic moves that the organisation has made and the parents of the children who lost their lives at Columbine and Sandy Hook.

A particular stand out of the piece is Wayne LaPierre, who is looked at in some depth. While Charlton Heston is the man best associated with the NRA thanks to his now famous “cold dead hands” line (pictured), LaPierre is the man who, for the past two decades, has devised the NRA’s – often questionable – strategies in opposing any gun control laws that are considered by the White House and Congress.

Check out the trailer below:

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Gunned Down: The Power Of The NRA premieres on PBS America (Sky 534/Virgin 243) on Thursday March 19th at 9pm.