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Study: Just Prior to Anniversary of Sandy Hook Massacre, TV is Awash in Violence (Exclusive)

The Walking Dead Midseason Finale Governor Michonne Rick - P 2013
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"The Walking Dead"

A conservative group is blasting Hollywood for advocating gun control even as it portrayed 101 acts of gun violence about a week before the anniversary of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

A conservative watchdog group is invoking the upcoming one-year anniversary of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., as well as some comments President Barack Obama recently made while visiting a film studio, to drive home its point that Hollywood is being hypocritical, by glamorizing gun violence while also advocating for more gun control.

According to a report expected Tuesday, a week ahead of the anniversary of the mass murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, some of television’s highest-rated shows featured at least 145 acts of violence, including 101 involving guns and 39 deaths.

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Authors of the study, which comes from the Culture and Media Institute, used Nielsen ratings to determine the most popular 20 dramas on television, then it watched the 14 episodes that aired from Dec. 1-7, just ahead of the anniversary of the real-life murders of 27 children and adults.

The study says “at least” 145 acts of violence were in the 14 shows because three of them -- The Walking Dead, NCIS: Los Angeles and Sons of Anarchy -- featured such lengthy and significant gun battles that it was impossible to determine the number of participants.

Those three shows also constituted the most violent on television in the week leading up to the anniversary of Sandy Hook. The Walking Dead earned the top spot with 20 acts of violence, even though the researchers didn’t count violence directed at zombies, only live humans.

In the run-up to Saturday's anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, the report predicts: “Americans can expect to hear demands for gun control from sanctimonious Hollywood stars, just as they did in the wake of the shooting. Their demands were hypocritical then, and they’re even more hypocritical now.”

The report notes that Hollywood has taken several victory laps for helping to change minds about gay marriage, in no small part with shows like Modern Family and others portraying same-sex relationships in positive ways. On the flip side, though, Hollywood is “afraid” to acknowledge its connection to gun violence.

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In one part of the report, author Matt Philbin writes of Obama’s recent visit with major Hollywood donors.

“He’s cozy with A-list actors and power brokers, and he’s asked for their help selling his agenda through their products,” the report says, before quoting from Obama’s remarks at DreamWorks Animation last month. “We have got to make sure we are not glorifying it,” the president said of gun violence. “The stories we tell matter. And you tell stories more powerfully than anybody else.”

The CMI is a department of the Media Research Center, which will release a video accompaniment to the report. The short video, embedded below, is a montage of violence featured on TV in the past week or so.

"We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook and we're seeing this incredible volume of violence, and we saw it before Sandy Hook and we've seen it all year since," said MRC vp of business and culture Dan Gainor.

The study also criticizes a public service announcement that featured Hollywood actors like Jamie Foxx and Jeremy Renner advocating for more gun control. That video also is below.

“Talk about tone-deaf,” said Gainor. “Quickly after Newtown, Hollywood released their video about how guns are bad. And now they’ve had a year to clean up their act, and TV is still a bloodbath.”

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The study also cites comments from anti-gun activists like Jim Carrey, who tweeted: “Any1 who would run out to buy an assault rifle after the Newtown massacre has very little left in their body or soul worth protecting.” The study notes the tweet came prior to the opening of Kick-Ass 2, a violent film Carrey stars in.

Sylvester Stallone of the Rambo and Expendables franchises also is cited, as are Bette Midler, Quentin Tarantino and Michael Moore.

“Tarantino makes the most violent movies I’ve ever seen, and he doesn’t want to talk about that element of them. That’s irresponsible,” said Gainor. “Violence is much more realistic and gruesome on TV today. Maybe normal people can watch it and not be affected, but abnormal people cannot. At minimum, it’s coarsening our culture.”

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com