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Introduction to The Gun Report, a new series from NolaVie and 91%

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This week, NolaVie and local filmmaker John Richie launch The Gun Report, a series about gun culture in New Orleans. And we invite you to participate.

We think it’s an important conversation, one that should be broad and inclusive. In an ever more polarized society, it’s tempting to think of pivotal issues in terms of black and white. Good guys. Bad guys. Us. Them. But the world unfolds in shades of gray, and that is perhaps nowhere more true than in a discussion of guns in America.

Americans own more than 300 million guns. In Louisiana, 44 percent of residents – or almost one of every two people walking the sidewalk in front of your house – own guns.

And that ownership is not simple. I grew up in a family of hunters; my brother was given a BB gun for Christmas not long after he learned the truth about Santa (gun ownership in rural Louisiana remains a bit sexist). I have friends who carry guns for self-protection. And I talk to community leaders who tell me that New Orleans kids can buy guns about as readily, and at about the same price, as they can a pair of sneakers.

Richie, producer and director of the award-winning movie Shell Shocked, about the effects of gun violence on New Orleans children, understands that complexity. His new documentary, 91 Percent, will look at one small but vital aspect of gun ownership in America background checks for gun purchasers.

“We’re trying to bring clarity to what the gun debate should be,” Richie explains. “It’s being pushed as a black and white issue, pro or anti guns, but that’s not the reality. Most people want cautions in place to keep guns out of the hands of people who use them to do harm.”

91 Percent, to be released in 2016, refers to the number of Americans who believe that a universal background check should be required for any firearm purchase. The film will explore what people think – and what they know or don’t know – about gun legislation in America.

To that end, Richie is traveling the country to talk to people from all walks of life about gun ownership and background checks for firearm purchases. He’s interviewed everyone from college activists and psychologists working with victims of violence to NRA members. He will talk about those conversations in an interview here and airing tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 4, on WWNO radio.

“We are not just talking to victims,” Richie explains. “We are trying to show that this is an issue that affects people from every demographic. Guns are part of our history and cultural narrative. A lot of American life was about defending and protecting our own. But the conundrum today is that people really do want to be safer, but there is such distrust of the government.  This fear is exploited by special interest groups and lobbyist which muddies the conversation about responsible gun ownership.”

The Gun Report will explore those conversations locally. Because guns are part of the narrative and fabric of New Orleans life. Most of us have been touched – for good or bad – by guns in some way.

In the coming months, leading up to the release of 91 Percent next summer, The Gun Report will be published at NolaVie and on the 91 Percent website. Multi-media reporting will include written pieces, personal essays, photo galleries, and short videos.

Each interview will ask basic questions about guns in New Orleans. Have guns played a part in your life? Do you own one? Have you experienced violence in the city? What do you think – or know -- about gun laws? Do you favor background checks?

We want your input as well. If you have an opinion, a personal story, or know someone you think has something to say, please let us know. Email [email protected], or editor Renee Peck at [email protected].

The Gun Report will ask the questions, but the answers are all yours. We hope to talk openly and honestly about guns and gun safety in New Orleans, and how personal rights and desires can co-exist with the public good.

It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

Coming up on The Gun Report:

  • Thursday, Nov. 5: John Richie talks about his conversations about guns across America
  • Friday, Nov. 6: An interview with Tulane law professor and domestic violence expert Tania Tetlow
  • Monday, Nov. 9: An interview with Xavier professor Turner
  • Tuesday, Nov. 10: Landry Walker high-school principal
  • Wednesday, Nov. 11: A tale of two cities: crime in Chicago and New Orleans
  • Thursday, Nov. 12: One woman's personal story of violence

The Gun Report is a series of conversations about gun safety in New Orleans sponsored by NolaVie and 91%, John Richie's upcoming documentary about background checks for gun purchasers. We want you to join the conversation with personal anecdotes and commentary. Email us at [email protected]

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]