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Armed and Law-Abiding

Armed and Law-Abiding was supposed to be a 90 minute documentary for Public Television and foreign broadcast. Unfortunately this documentary was never made; nevertheless the points and statements against gun control are remarkable.

Guns: There is probably today no issue which so divides the American public. Half of us think we should be allowed to own and carry guns. Half of us think this uniquely American right should be abolished immediately. Guns are what make us different from the British, the Canadians, the Japanese, the French, and people from these countries can’t understand why so many of us insist on having them. Guns are associated in the popular imagination, in films and television with crime, death, and evil, but they are also a force for good in the eyes of many people who own them for hunting purposes and self-defense. For some of us, guns were part of our childhood education, for the rest of us, part of our childhood fears. But never before were guns so much in the news as they are today, dividing our society with an intensity that permeates no other issue except perhaps abortion.

Riva Freifeld, an award-winning Canadian filmmaker living in New York City, is producing a 90 minute documentary special for PBS on the untold story of guns in America today. Ms. Freifeld began research on this film shortly after a young relative was accidentally shot by a neighbor who had found his father’s loaded gun. She began to film herself as she studied the attitudes of people connected to the incident. As a person completely unfamiliar with guns, she took up target shooting, in order to gain insights into the gun culture, its proponents, and its enemies. What she learned forms the basis of the film — and it’s not what has been depicted in the mainstream media.

There are approximately 200,000,000 guns in the United States. About 13,000 Americans are murdered every year with a gun. These statistics and others, together with comparisons with other countries, are used to create the perception that only bad things happen with guns, only bad people have guns, and bad things are happening here in America because we have so many guns.

But as the mainstream media showers us with image after image of gun violence and death, statistic after statistic about the dangers of gun owning, another story is not being told. A story which does not lend itself to dramatic headlines and fast moving imagery, because it is not about death, it is about being responsible for your own life. There is a stigma attached to gun ownership, fostered by negative coverage in the media. This applies not only to hunters and handgun owners, but also to target shooters. Yet about half of all American homes contain a gun, most of them for self-protection.

Many people have used guns to save themselves or others, but their stories rarely make the news. A gun is used successfully in self-defense about 1,000,000 times a year, according to criminologist Gary Kleck. In many of these cases, it is not even fired. In other cases, the person defending him/herself is prosecuted. The people who own these guns are not the media stereotypes, and come from all political persuasions. Most of them are average citizens, some of them are prominent Americans.

The film will present portraits of a variety of gun owners, doctors, lawyers, teachers and businesspeople. Women, the elderly, and the disabled. Liberals and conservatives. Some of them have already had to defend themselves or their loved ones. Others are merely exercising their right to be able to do so in the future. Some have been around guns all their lives, others only recently Our subjects will tell their own stories, through on-camera interviews and real documentary sequences. We will learn why they own guns, why they made this choice, how it may have changed their lives. We will augment these portraits with stock footage, TV news clips, and dramatic re-enactments when necessary. The human drama that will emerge from hearing people talk about being responsible for their own lives will be our film’s primary focus.

The film will also portray: A rigorous 4 day handgun training course for civilians, taught by one of the country’s leading experts on the legal aspects of self-defense. A gun historian who will talk about the history and lore of guns and the relevance of the Second Amendment. Rank and file police officers who will talk about why they feel gun control won’t work. We will interview academics and legal experts who will question some of the currently accepted statistics about guns and gun owners.

We will also interview well-known figures who will help dispel some of the popular myths about who owns guns and why. These will include Roy Innis of C.O.R.E., author David Mamet, historian/collector R. L. Wilson, constitutional lawyer Don Kates, trainer/author Massad Ayoob, J. Neil Schulman (author of “Stopping Power, Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns”), director John Milius, members of Congress, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and police chiefs from several large cities. We will interview one of the survivors of a recent highly publicized shooting, who is a staunch advocate of people owning guns. We will also interview the head of one of America’s prominent gun manufacturing companies and a prominent N.R.A. executive — both of them usually demonized in the media — who will present some practical, down to earth views that often get lost on the cutting room floor.

Our film will also examine some contemporary mythology about guns. The reason TV usually reports gun violence, but rarely self-defense, will be analyzed by a prominent media critic. The ambiguity that many feel about guns will be held up to the spotlight, including a look at “gun hypocrites”, people who publicly advocate strict gun control, but who privately own firearms. These will include columnist Carl Rowan, Senators Dianne Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller, Congressman Steve Solarz, and Jane Fonda.. We’ll also take a look at gun education, why it isn’t being taught in the U.S. any more, and how that may be contributing to ignorance, fear, and negative attitudes.

A celebrity who is not associated with guns will be the narrator. Possibilities include Cybill Shepherd and Robert Duvall.

This film is being produced without the financial participation of any organization financially or philosophically connected to either side of the gun control issue, in order that it may qualify as a PBS broadcast.

The budget for the film is $500,000, of which $50,000 has already been raised. The producer is seeking the remaining $450,000 from private sources, which will receive a standard funding credit at the top of the film. The film’s fiscal sponsor is a 501(c)3 tax exempt foundation and contributions are tax deductible. Foreign distribution is very likely.

For additional information, and should you wish to inquire about a financial contribution to this project, contact the producer, Riva Freifeld, 170 West End Ave., #21G, New York, NY 10023. (212) 874-7535, fax (212) 874-3970.

Riva Freifeld

Producer/Director/Writer , ARMED AND LAW-ABIDING

Riva Freifeld is an award winning documentary producer, director and editor. She recently edited the acclaimed PBS series, CHALLENGE TO AMERICA with Hedrick Smith, and the Emmy winning NBC series, C. EVERETT KOOP, M.D. She was one of the editors of WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT VIOLENCE? with Bill Moyers, which airs on January 9 and 11 on PBS. Her one hour documentary, ISAAC IN AMERICA: A JOURNEY WITH ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER was nominated for an Academy Award in 1987, and was shown at the New York Film Festival and on American Masters. She was the editor of the 1994 PBS summer pledge week program, THE STORY OF LASSIE, hosted by June Lockhart. She edited MAE WEST AND THE MEN WHO KNEW HER, hosted by Dom de Luise, which was recently shown as part of the Arts & Entertainment “Biography” series.

Ms. Freifeld was also a producer/director on the children’s programs BIG BLUE MARBLE, 3-2-1 CONTACT, and SESAME STREET, and her segment on a child prodigy violinist won an Emmy. She was the editor of two one hour documentaries hosted by Walter Cronkite, CAN’T AFFORD TO GROW OLD and OUR CHILDREN AT RISK. For the Museum of Modern Art, she edited the videos VIENNA 1900 and NEW WAYS OF SEEING: PICASSO, BRAQUE AND THE CUBIST REVOLUTION. She was co-producer and editor of the 1985 documentary EISENSTAEDT: GERMANY, which aired in Germany (ARD) and the U.S. (PBS). She has also edited films for The World of Audubon, Lifetime TV, HBO, National Geographic Explorer, Arts & Entertainment, ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, and Britain’s Channel 4.

Ms. Freifeld has also worked as a production supervisor for foreign feature films. She was the New York production manager on Luigi Zampa’s film MONDO VIVO, starring Michel Simon and Gian Maria Volont~. She was one of two editors of the 1988 series THE STREET, a cop show shot in Newark, produced by Bob Pittman.


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