Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire: Film Review

This pro-gun ownership documentary leavens its polemics with thoughtful historical analysis.

Kris Koenig's documentary, narrated by Ice-T, makes a vehement argument against gun control.

Considering the flood of documentaries being released these days, it’s not surprising that a large number of them fall within predictably left and right-wing lines. The former tend to predominate, so when something like Assaulted: Civil Rights Under Fire comes along it comes as a bit of a surprise. But while Kris Koenig’s impassioned defense of gun rights is unlikely to change anyone’s minds, it at least makes its arguments with a reasonable degree of historical context and thoughtful if vehement arguments.

Narrated in passionately angry fashion by rapper turned actor Ice-T, the film goes far back in time to make its case, from 17th century England and post-Civil War America to the current debate fueled by the incidents in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. Along the way, there are many fascinating historical tidbits well captured in archival footage and photographs, including an incident in 1946 in Athens, Ga. — dubbed the “Battle of Athens” — in which citizens took arms against the local government over the issues of political corruption and election fraud.

The argument is made that gun ownership is what prevented greater numbers of blacks from being attacked by racist elements in the Deep South, particularly during the early days of the Civil Rights movement. This led inevitably to the formation of the Blank Panthers, who at one point are coyly described as “peacefully marching, with loaded firearms.”

The film’s primary theme is its invocation of the Second Amendment as the main line of defense for citizens against a tyrannical government. Stalin and Hitler are predictably referenced, but it also delves into more imaginative territory with its exploration of the breaking down of the “thin veneer of civilization,” illustrated by such episodes as the Los Angeles police force essentially leaving the citizens of Koreatown to their own devices during the Rodney King riots and the alleged overreaching by authorities in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A procession of talking heads — with nary a dissenter heard from — testifies to the vital importance of gun ownership, including such familiar faces as rocker Ted Nugent. More interestingly, spotlights are thrown on various segments of society, including the LGBT community, represented by a group dubbed the “Pink Pistols”; disabled people; and women, for whom guns are depicted as essentially the only way to protect themselves against male aggression. Gun rights are “a women’s issue,” one interview subject argues.

Yes, most of it comes through as preaching to the choir. But along the way, the film provides some interesting food for thought that elevates the discussion. At least, until one notices that it was produced by a company named Dead Patriot Films.

Opens: Friday, July 12 (High Top Releasing)

Production: Dead Patriot Films

Director-screenwriter: Kris Koenig

Producers: Anita Ingrao, Eric Katzenberg, Kris Koenig

Editors: Jonathan Fischer, Bridget Foley

Rated PG-13, 79 min.