Radical New Texas Gun Law Shines a Light on Cultural Divide in U.S.
The debate over guns in America heated up this week with news that Texas, already one of the most gun-friendly states in the nation, is poised to pass a law allowing almost everyone over the age of 21 to carry a handgun — no license, no background check, and no training required.
The radical new measure, which Republican Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign any day in the face of strenuous opposition from law enforcement agencies and gun control advocates, is just the latest example of how deeply divided Americans are on this issue.
If you’re looking to provide your students with an accessible entry point into the starkly different ways the American people view guns, gun violence, and American gun culture, don’t miss Richard Chisolm’s acclaimed new documentary Gun Show: Rethinking Weapons in the Name of Art.
Gun Show tells the story of artist David Hess, a sculptor who assembles mock assault weapons out of everyday found objects and transforms them into a traveling public art installation. The film follows Hess as he takes his exhibit through rural communities and urban areas, inspiring ordinary Americans to take a step back and reflect on the meaning of guns in America.
Gun Show has been earning high praise for encouraging critical thinking and dialogue, and for attempting to bridge differences across personal, political, and cultural divides. You can watch it now through your university or public library on the Kanopy streaming platform, purchase a 7-day streaming rental, or get it on DVD. Click here to see if your university subscribes to Kanopy. And click here for information about hosting a screening.
Praise for Gun Show
“A testament to the power of art to engender safe, rich, thoughtful conversations.”
— Elizabeth Gaufberg MD MPH | Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry,
Harvard Medical School
“Guns are tools, totems of pride and patriotism, cherished family heirlooms, sources of terror, symbols of power and resistance, and everything in between. Gun Show explores the fascinating ways in which these objects exemplify our everyday experience of the material world, while remaining unique in their ability to inspire awe, fear, or devotion. In so doing, it also reveals how a shared artistic experience opens up conversations that transcend the typical divides marking the debates over gun violence and gun rights in the US.”
— Jonathan Obert | Assistant Professor of Political Science at Amherst College and author of The Six-Shooter State: Public and Private Violence in American Politics
“Gun Show does a remarkable job showing how people from diverse perspectives view guns in radically different ways. For some, Hess’s ‘weapons’ are terrifying. For others, they are thrilling or amusing. This documentary illuminates the chasm we must cross to make headway in the American gun debate.”
— Firmin DeBrabander | Author of Do Guns Make Us Free? and Professor of Philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art
“After every new and senseless mass shooting, there is a flickering hope that common sense legislation will prevail, and then it does not. Enter Gun Show, a fresh-faced film that wields the achingly inventive art of David Hess, who has literally created ‘weapons of mass discussion!’ Richard Chisolm’s documentary trumpets a great human aspiration – the end of us-versus-them thinking – revealing a world where we see we are all in it together.”
— Rebecca Hoffberger | Founder/Director, American Visionary Art Museum
“A provocative, and productively uncomfortable, look at art’s capacity to transform, and to breach the barriers that prevent us from connecting across our differences. Amidst our increasingly heated gun debates, art provides a means of recapturing a sense of shared humanity and common vulnerability.”
— Caroline Light | Author of Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense and Senior Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies Program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Harvard University
“9 out of 10! Whether it’s rural farmers seeing the weapons as optimistic homages to freedom, community programs for at-risk youth viewing them as a fetishistic love letter to romanticized violence, or an ethical debate with no right answer (or end), Gun Show succeeds in almost every way.”
— Film Threat
“David Hess’s assault rifle facsimile sculptures challenge both the American fetishization of guns and museums’ prohibition against handling works of art. Demonstrates the power of public art to spark dialogue in diverse audiences and across entrenched political and social divisions.”
— Annie Dell’Aria | Assistant Professor of Art History at Miami University
“Gun Show is a powerful blend of art and politics with surprising cultural insights.”
— Marshall Curry | Academy Award-winning filmmaker
“Funny. Cool. Scary. Anti-gun. Pro-gun. All different responses to the same works of art: ‘Guns’ built from objects found around the home of sculptor David Hess. … These meanings are grounded in real, experiential differences with guns, and recognizing this is key to understanding — and possibly overcoming — the polarization of attitudes around guns in our society. The length and open-endedness of Gun Show makes it an ideal resource for those who want to engage in a difficult and polarizing issue.”
— David Yamane | Professor of Sociology at Wake Forest University
“The fantasy ‘rifles’ sculptor David Hess creates invite us to reconsider our own views on firearms, whatever they may be … [and] encourage us to talk with instead of at each other about safer ways to live with our 300 million guns.”
— Craig R. Whitney | Author, Living with Guns: A Liberal’s Case for the Second Amendment
“U.S. gun culture — like any culture — includes notions of beauty, pragmatics, profit and play, and at its core the psychology of human desire. Gun Show puts them all on display and demonstrates that we still don’t know how to account for that culture. Watching it and talking about it should help us structure our understanding.”
— Peter Isackson | Writer at Fair Observer
“Richard Chisolm and David Hess have found an engaging and enlightening way to plumb the mystery of America’s fascination with violent weapons.”
— Dan Baum | Author, Gun Guys: A Road Trip