30,000 Americans per year are shot to death, which is an average of about 82 people a day.  That number seems staggering to me and after the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut there wasn’t a person alive who didn’t ask themselves, “What can we do to prevent this from happening again?”

It struck me during Lent that on the anniversary of the Newtown shooting we honor the victims by a national day of Armistice.  On December 14, we collectively put our “Guns Down.”  As a nation, we don’t pick up, fire, clean, buy, sell or deal with our firearms in any way.  No television show, song, or movie, will be shown that make any reference to gun violence, and no video games with such images will be played for 24 hours.  One day with our guns down.

You see, I’m not a practicing Catholic anymore, but I still observe Lent.  For 40 days I know what it feels like to give up something I relish: meat, alcohol, or sweets. Each year it’s a different offering. It feels like I’m physically honoring the sacrifice that those before me have made. I can do it because it’s a finite period of time.

Imagine how beautiful it would be, as a nation, to honor all of those whom we lost to gun violence. A simple sacrifice: for one day we put our Guns Down.  Our solidarity says that we remember you.

I’m also not a politician or an activist and I certainly do not know how to stop gun violence entirely. But it seems to me that creating the absence of guns, even temporarily, may help us to realize the pervasive power they have in our lives.  We will feel a difference.

While I may disagree with Wayne Lapierre and the NRA’s reaction to Sandy Hook (I’ve got a brother and sister who are teachers and they have NO desire to be responsible for a firearm in their classrooms) he did bring up a point that struck home: Hollywood and the media share part of the blame.

I’ve been an actor and director for over 30 years, and trust me, I’m as guilty as anyone in the business of glamorizing gun violence. I’m in a new series this season, Hostages, where someone is shot dead with an automatic weapon on page 3 and practically every page thereafter. In addition, this past season I directed a gunfight on a TV show, Deception, and did everything to make the scene look as scary and terrorizing as possible. The NRA is right when they say depictions of guns from the entertainment world are wholly unrealistic and I’ve made my living from it.

Guns are everywhere in entertainment. But imagine an episode of Justified, or any cop show, where there were no guns. I think every writer’s room in Hollywood would jump at the chance to create such an episode. It’s known that when the story drags, the lazy way to ramp up the drama is to pull out a gun.

So, imagine, if for one day, all of the networks got together and decided not to air any episodes or movies with a firearm, if we asked our kids to not play any violent video games, if radio stations didn’t air any songs about needing ‘my AK’, if arcade owners just pulled the plug on single shooter games, if sporting goods stores covered their display of arms for sale, if gun ranges took the day off, quite possibly we’d honor those lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary school with our small sacrifice in a significant way.

This isn’t about passing legislation, or limiting gun ownership. Like everyone else I’m not sure what the most effective way is to reduce the number of gun deaths.  But ‘Guns Down Day’ is something we all can do, together. It’s simple and powerful and may allow us enough space in our lives to begin the dialogue needed to solve this national problem.


Tate Donovan

Spring, 2013