What’s wrong with this picture?

Walmart continues to take heat for selling guns, and families in Newtown, Conn., are still grieving. Who wants to go see Warner Brothers’ new film “Bullet to the Head” starring Sylvester Stallone?

The film hits theaters on Feb. 1, and trailers are airing now on national television and the Internet. Sly plays a retired hit man from New Orleans named Jimmy Bobo (seriously, that’s the name of his character) who is out for revenge because someone killed someone else, so he teams up with another guy. There’s some mumbling and a lot of shooting. Or something like that. The plot in a Stallone movie hasn’t mattered since the late 70’s when the first installment of the Rocky franchise debuted. Since then, he’s left a trail of death and destruction on the big screen, which lets movie goers know what to expect from his newest effort if it wasn’t already clear from the name.

I can hear the conversation now:

“Hey honey, let’s go see that new Stallone movie.”

“What’s it called?”

“Bullet to the Head.”

Undecipherable muttering.

“I hear it’s really good. He’s an ex-hit man and there’s this other guy and they’re out for revenge and there’s shooting and…”

“Have a good time.”

Warner Brothers came up with the name “Bullet to the Head,” well before a lone gunman went to the Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 kids and six adults, some of whom were presumably shot in the head. But even if the murders had not occurred, the film’s title still would have been as objectionable as the content presumably is, judging from the hail of gun fire and a fight scene involving axes used to entice viewers in the trailers.

So where’s the outrage? Where’s the petition on Change.org demanding Warner Brothers suspend release of the film out of respect for the Sandy Hook victims or maybe change the title to something less graphic? There’s a petition imploring Walmart’s chief merchandising and marketing officer, Duncan Mac Naughton to “stop selling and advertising assault weapons in your stores!” Nearly 115,000 people have signed it and provided their name, email and physical address to Change.org. 

The problem with the petition is Walmart doesn’t sell assault weapons. It sells what it and others in the shooting world call “modern sporting rifles.” The weapons look pretty menacing to those unfamiliar with firearms and don’t understand the difference between a fully automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon that requires a separate pull of the trigger for each round fired. They also don’t understand that some of those menacing design features are simply cosmetic embellishments intended to create a military look. But make no mistake, Seal Team Six didn’t storm Osama Bin Laden’s compound packing the type of so-called assault weapons Walmart is accused of offering in about one third of its stores.

Gun control advocates and those eager to latch onto any issue that can be used to disparage Walmart would like to draw a straight line from Walmart to the Sandy Hook murders. That’s why a few weeks ago a group called SumOfUs.org staged an event at a Walmart store in Danbury, Conn., where organizers delivered a box of petitions to a store manager. The store didn’t actually sell guns, but that didn’t matter because the event was all about optics. The media were alerted to the photo opportunity and USA Today ran a story in which attendees at the event derided Walmart for selling guns along with a photo of a woman thrusting a picture of her injured child at the camera.

It is easy to incite outrage and action in the aftermath of a tragic event. So, congratulations to the event organizers for a clever tactical move that furthered their cause. But did it really? If the cause is to prevent future shootings of innocent kids, parading around the parking lot of a Walmart store that doesn’t sell guns to oppose the sale of guns at the retailer’s other stores that aren’t truly assault weapons is a lot of wasted energy.

What’s most unfortunate is that efforts to vilify companies that are the most compliant with federal firearms regulations detracts from the pursuit of a more constructive debate around what, if anything, can be done to diminish the potential for future mass shootings. I didn’t say prevent because those that think future incidents can be prevented by the introduction of gun control measures are delusional. If Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas and Gander Mountain never sold another weapon to outdoor enthusiasts and the federal government spent billions on gun buy backs, there would still be millions upon millions of guns available to deranged people.

It’s not a comforting thought, especially considering how crazy someone has to be to want to see a movie called, “Bullet to the Head.”



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