I had a chance to screen Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire, (Amazon, iTunes) last week. Two-time Emmy Award winner Kris Koenig provided me with a copy of the film, which takes a no-holds-barred look at the role of the Second Amendment.
As you might expect, many professional critics—which I think you can safely assume are devoutly anti-gun progressives—have panned the film, as you would expect from people employed by the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.
What you wouldn’t expect is the reaction the film received from Earnest Hardy of the Village Voice.
…What follows though, is a surprisingly thoughtful, well-researched attempt to give both sides of the argument respect while illuminating the long history of tensions surrounding gun ownership in America. Writer-director Kris Koenig rolls out fantastic archival footage, newspaper clips, and old photos, as well as historians who illuminate the racial and class biases historically held by many of the Americans calling for gun control—and who make clear how those biases are still very much in play. He also showcases gun advocates from demographics that might surprise some viewers, such as LGBT activists and groups of disabled Americans.
Joe Leydon of Variety seemed equally impressed.
Provocatively framing the ongoing gun-control debate in terms of self-defense and historical precedent, the aptly titled “Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire” is unmistakably and unabashedly pro-gun ownership, but surprisingly non-shrill and sobersided as it builds its case against what documaker Kris Koenig clearly sees as unnecessary, if not unconstitutional, government restrictions on firearms.
I don’t claim to be a film critic, but I do have what I hope is a decent (though not professorial) grasp of the history of Second Amendment, and so I watched the film from that perspective. Assaulted didn’t provide me with tons of information that I didn’t know, but then, I’m not the primary audience for such a film, and I’ve done a lot of research and reading over the years that many people wouldn’t.
Without asking Koenig, I’m drawn to conclude that the film was written to provide evidence for the “gun-curious,” who have a tendency to want to support the 2nd Amendment, but who didn’t have the historical/academic background to support their natural inclinations. It is a film for those looking for affirmation.
Would Assaulted likely change the mind of someone who subscribes to the collectivist view? I have to say it would not, at least in the short term, but I don’t think that it would be fair to blame that on any failure in the film. The sort of people who tend to shy away from an individual rights view of the Second Amendment tend to act more emotionally than logically to begin with, and they are simply likely to shut down and stop listening instead of allowing their preconceptions to be challenged by anything as pesky as facts or reason.
Who should see the film?
If you are the kind of person who spends a lot of time attempting to convert others to see your viewpoint on the Second Amendment but don’t have a good grasp of how gun control has habitually been used to disarm certain populations so that they may be abused, then this is for you.
If you belong to to a gun club or shooting range and you’s like to impress upon your fellow members why our Second Amendment rights are important, than Assaulted might be a good film for you to watch as a group activity.
If you;re a gun nut like me, you’ll find yourself nodding along, and you might have a few holes in your knowledge gap smoothed over.
But you know where I would love to see Assaulted screened? I would like for courageous academics to bring Assaulted to the classroom.
I think it would be very interesting to see how students in high school and college watch Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, followed a class period later by Koenig’s Assaulted.
I suspect that the immediate effect of such a screening might be minimal, and if more than one or two students in a class of 30 admitted to having radically changed their minds, I’d be very surprised. Over the long-term, however, I think that Assaulted would perhaps lead to some lingering questions and generate some soul-searching, particularly in the truly intellectually curious. I suspect that Assaulted would assist the sort of deep conversion that a film like Moore’s Columbine could never hope to match.
Of course, I’m just a knuckle-dragging gun nut, so I may be wrong.