Trigger Warning: USC Norman Lear Center Launches Gun Guidelines

Norman Lear honored during NORMAN LEAR: 100 YEARS OF MUSIC AND LAUGHTER,, a star-studded evening airing THURSDAY, SEPT. 22 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC (ABC/Christopher Willard).

The Hollywood, Health & Society at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center has released Trigger Warning: Gun Guidelines for the Media.

The document can be found on the Hollywood, Health & Society’s main landing page and across social media platforms, to help the entertainment industry improve representations of safe and responsible gun use in media.

Trigger Warning: Gun Guidelines for the Media
Trigger Warning: Gun Guidelines for the Media.

American citizens own four times the amount of guns as the next highly developed country and suffer four times the amount of gun homicides. In addition, 30 million children in the US live in households with firearms and 4.6 million live in a home with at least one loaded and unlocked gun. Over half of all gun owners do not lock all of their firearms securely, and access to a gun in the home increases the risk of death by suicide by 300%. By the time the typical child turns 18, they will have already seen 40,000 simulated murders, and research shows that children’s programming that features guns has been proven to make children more likely to want to play with guns.

“I couldn’t be prouder that the Center which bears my name is releasing this report about gun safety and the entertainment industry,” said Lear. “How guns are portrayed on screen should reflect the public health crisis we are in, and help portray responsible gun ownership.”

Marty Kaplan, director of The Norman Lear Center, adds, “The Lear Center’s message to the creative community in this report comes down to this: Treat guns in your stories as if they were real. Because your audience does.”

“From ‘designated driver’ to ‘buckle up,’ we all know how Hollywood helped make our roads safer by depicting responsible driving. Could there be a better moment than this one for the entertainment industry to get behind a similar effort for gun safety, and depict responsible gun ownership?” said Kate Folb, M.Ed., director of Hollywood, Health & Society. “TV shows are in a unique position to change the narrative, reset the bar, and provide representation of safe, responsible behavior when it comes to firearms.”

“Hollywood leaders want to use their talents and voices to inspire positive culture change,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady, the nation’s oldest and boldest gun violence prevention group. “Outraged by the tragedy in Uvalde, this time last year about 300 leading writers, directors, and producers signed Brady’s open letter committing to modeling gun safety on screen. Now, they have a roadmap to turn that commitment into tangible change. We’ve heard many creatives share examples of meaningful changes they’ve made since signing the pledge, so I am excited for the life-saving impact that will come now that the community has this important tool.”

The data in this guide represents a snapshot of trends over the past 20 years, as well as a warning of where those trends are headed without conscientious action. Film and television creatives have the power to shape public perception, normalize habits, and even effect policy, which is why the way we talk about and depict guns and gun violence matters so much. America has more guns than people; more homicides, suicides, and unintentional deaths by firearm than any of its high-income peer countries by orders of magnitude. The number one cause of death for children and teens in America is gun violence. So it makes sense that guns seem to be everywhere in our media, too. From late night news to Saturday morning cartoons, cop shows to comedies — guns are ubiquitous on our screens

Since 2001, Hollywood, Health & Society has been a free resource to the entertainment industry, having consulted on over 2,600 storylines between 2012-2020. HH&S also works with networks and shows to produce PSAs and other informational spots offering resources to audiences.  In recent years, HH&S has consulted on dozens of shows including Grey’s Anatomy, This is Us, Will Trent, New Amsterdam, Superman & Lois, Euphoria, NCIS, Orange is the New Black, Empire, Days of Our Lives, Shameless, Hawaii Five-O, Fire Country, Station 19, The Resident and many more.

For more information on Hollywood, Health & Society and its goals to improve representations of safe gun use in media, please visit or follow on Twitter, YouTube, or Facebook.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.