Written by by Ian Martinez, CNN
High-profile celebrity movies include “City of Angels,” a 1993 crime drama starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd about Los Angeles’ police department, and “Reservoir Dogs,” the 1992 cult classic.
In addition to those hits, there’s “Transporter,” in which Jason Statham starred as the brawny driver.
But when those films were filmed in Los Angeles, “they were never allowed to use machine guns,” says Jason Calvo, a gun safety expert and law enforcement trainer.
To avoid that, Calvo says, the state of California mandated that movie-makers use untampered-with military and police weapons, including modified military M-16 rifles, AR-15 rifles and M-16s — most of which Calvo’s own father used during the Vietnam War.
For “Rust,” starring Jeff Bridges and Kate Winslet, Louisiana had a different approach to the film’s film equipment and weapons.
Shot at locations in New Orleans, “Rust” features an extensive gunfight scene in which soldiers and cops attack several movie sets.
“They had a glass window covered, but the guards inside were wearing pistols and have body armor, which essentially allowed them to cross the street,” Calvo says.
Movies with guns
U.S. filming locations continue to attract foreign movie projects and crews that don’t conform to strict laws.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, the number of foreign productions shooting in California decreased by 35% in 2016 from the year before, a sign of the state’s weakening business climate since the passage of Proposition 63, a January 2014 measure that raised California’s minimum wage.
The law has also contributed to the decision by many studios to choose Illinois over California as a location.
The increased transparency of the process also encourages attention to the effects of gun violence. It’s easier for concerned citizens to appeal to police officers and city councils when a production receives the permit.
“In California, (California Film Commission) has had to answer questionnaires following every shooting to justify why (law enforcement officers) have to pass through background checks and how they screen the employees,” Calvo says.
California Film Commission does not comment on specific productions, but commission spokesperson Amy Lemisch said the California Department of Justice, which oversees permit applications, asks them to disclose the names of employees and contractors before approving a permit.
The state provides guidelines for how gun use is portrayed in film.
“The safety of film crews and working actors is a top priority, and we do not comment on individual productions, as the confidentiality of those behind the camera is part of the filmmaking process,” Lemisch said in an email.
Data shows the guidelines go up when the script calls for the use of machine guns.
“What we’ve seen is a big increase in gunplay” when the show has switched to a more realistic setting, says Edwin Salcedo, associate professor of criminal justice at California State University, Northridge.
Though licensed to sell weaponry, many retailers and gun sellers still carry firearms, and the most popular guns are the AR-15, which was modified to resemble an M-16 rifle, and the Remington 727, which is similar to an M-16.
The company that makes the 727, Remington Outdoor, did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
Keeping the public safe
Public safety isn’t an afterthought, said Chima Iheakam, a sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department and founding director of the Criminal Justice Prosecution Program at California Western School of Law.
“I think the public has benefited from the interest they’ve generated in gun safety,” he said.
Fifty-two percent of the public supported the creation of stricter gun laws, according to a 2017 NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey.
The increase in criminal activity since 1968, the year President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968, can be attributed to a growing trend of carrying firearms at street level in the U.S., according to Gary Kleck, professor emeritus of criminology at Florida State University and author of “Armed and Dangerous: A Social History of Gun Violence in America.”
Since that year, Kleck says, criminals have bought the guns used in crimes at local gun shows.