MPAA's Chris Dodd Rules Out Mandatory Curbs on Gun Violence in Entertainment

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The MPAA chief tells THR that the industry will discuss voluntarily guidelines during a White House meeting this week.

WASHINGTON -- On the eve of the entertainment industry's White House meeting to discuss gun violence in films and video games, Motion Picture Association of America president Chris Dodd told The Hollywood Reporter that his industry will consider voluntary guidelines but will "vehemently" oppose any government restrictions on content.

Dodd and other spokesmen from various sectors of the entertainment industry will meet with Vice President Joe Biden, who has been charged by President Barack Obama with recommending legislation to curb gun violence, Thursday night and Friday.

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Among those expected to attend include the National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell, Directors Guild of America executive director Jay Roth and National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian. Because of the eleventh-hour timing, it was unclear how many studio executives would be able to attend the meeting.

“We want to explore what we can do to provide parents and others with the information for them to make choices on what they want to see and what they want their children to see,” Dodd said. “That's a legitimate space for us to be in. It's all voluntary. What we don't want to get involved with is content regulation. We're vehemently opposed to that. We have a free and open society that celebrates the First Amendment."

Dodd said the studios have been willing to participate in such discussions from the day the Connecticut school shootings occurred. He pointed out that the studios responded collectively, "saying they applaud the administration. They want to be part of the efforts to help America heal, and they are more than willing to be part of that conversation. This is not a crowd you have to drag to the table.”

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The glamorization of military-style firearms by the film and video game industries has become a major point of contention this week, as a variety of conservative commentators have challenged Obama to lower the hammer on his entertainment industry supporters over their genre’s graphic portrayal of gun violence. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre, National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre alleged that the film and video game industries bear a major responsibility for portraying guns in a way that attracts unstable personalities. This week, a range of media commentators called on the administration to force its entertainment industry supporters to admit that film and video games have a role in the situation.

Obama’s charge to Biden is to focus not only on specific legislative remedies, but also on the culture of guns that many believe permeates American society. The vice president will be meeting with a variety of groups representing victims of gun violence, as well as mental health professionals and medical researchers, many of whom are upset that a Republican-dominated House essentially has cut off funds for ongoing research into firearms’ toll by the federally financed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Legislatively, there is little Biden can recommend that would address the cinematic or video depiction of firearms. As Dodd told THR, the First Amendment protects films from government intervention and, in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically struck down a California law that would have prohibited the sale of particularly violent video games to minors.