By Emma Sarran Webster | May 13, 2016 | People
We caught up with Katie Couric to find out what inspired her to make a documentary about gun violence, the surprising things she learned from making the film, and why she thinks Chicago is so much better than its “Chiraq” reputation.
In an election year, there are endless political issues overwhelming our news feeds, TV channels, and dinner conversations. But there’s one subject in particular that, election year or not, we can't ignore: gun violence. It’s a sadly prevalent topic, particularly in Chicago, but it’s one that not many people are truly educated about.
That’s where Katie Couric comes in. The legendary TV journalist teamed up with director Stephanie Soechtig to produce a new documentary, Under the Gun, that takes an in-depth look at the gun debate, bringing to light many aspects of the issue that viewers may not know or realize. The film will air on the EPIX network and across all EPIX platforms on May 15 at 7 p.m. CST.
We caught up with Couric at the documentary’s Chicago premiere, where she told us why she felt compelled to produce Under the Gun, how Chicago plays a role, and what we can all do to help.
I have covered so many mass shootings, and so many incidents of urban crime and urban gun violence, that I couldn’t understand the disconnect between public opinion and what was being done about the unacceptable number of people who die every year—some 33,000 people in this country. So, I started with the same question I start with when I do any story, which is, “Why?” “Why is this happening?” "Why haven't we collectively, as a nation, been able to do anything about it?" And I just really wanted to take a comprehensive look and connect the dots for people about a topic that they think they understand, but their knowledge of it really is just on the surface.
Well, I think there were a few surprising things. I think the tentacles of the gun lobby are far reaching—much more far reaching than I ever imagined, and they have exerted influence in ways that really create serious impediments to getting anything accomplished. So, whether it's the [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s] lack of computerized records, or not allowing the CDC to study this as a public health issue—there are ancillary issues that have a big impact. Seventy-four percent of the NRA actually favors universal background checks, and the leadership of the NRA doesn’t really speak for the membership—they're more representing the gun industry and the gun manufacturers.
I just learned so much, and I'm somebody who has covered this issue time and time again. So if I learned a lot, I feel like the average person who follows it will learn a lot too; and they'll be able to have a much more intelligent understanding. And I think you can only change things when you really understand them. So, hopefully people will feel more knowledgeable and more motivated.
Producer Olivia Ahnemann, director Stephanie Soechtig, Annette Holt of Purpose Over Pain, executive producer Katie Couric, and Pam Bosely of Purpose Over Pain attend the Chicago premiere of Under the Gun in Chicago.
I think, with social media, there’s such a grassroots movement. You can get involved in Moms Demand Action, you can write your local congressman, you can tweet, and you can put [something] on Facebook. You can kind of galvanize your community, and all those communities put together represent a lot of people. I think people can just get involved and say they care, and at the end of the film, [we] show a number of ways they can do that.
[The city was] heavily featured and it was really important for us to not just focus on mass shootings, but focus on the daily carnage that's happening in cities all across the country. I think Chicago is emblematic of that and certainly has, sadly, developed a national reputation for being sort of at the epicenter of gun violence.
I love the city of Chicago; I love mid-westerners! I think it's such a warm, open, friendly city, and I think it's a city that cares.
I think that, rather than worry about its reputation, Chicago should roll up its sleeves and try to get involved and do something about this problem. I think that there are a myriad of ways that people can get involved, but I don't think Chicago needs to worry that it is being sort of portrayed as “Chiraq.”
I think that the reputation of the city is strong, but I also think that people who live here and people who live in every major metropolitan area in this country, need to really put their heads together and figure out a way to help these communities that are being devastated by gunfire every day—and with the understanding that it's not gang related. A lot of [the people affected] are good families—hard-working people trying to raise their kids, just like we all are. We have to realize that we're in this together.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF EPIX (HEADSHOT); BY DANIEL BOCZARSKI/GETTY IMAGES FOR EPIX (‘UNDER THE GUN’ PREMIERE)
January 22, 2019
January 22, 2019