Directors, actors and others have long debated whether Hollywood glorifies guns and, in the process, promotes violence among children.
As the debate rages, guns are enjoying increasing popularity among those who make movies and television shows, many contend.
From target shooting events for celebrities to “snack and shoot” get-togethers for screenwriters, show business figures say they are taking up firearms for personal protection and recreation.
“In the last six years, half our friends in the business who thought we were right-wing, fascist Nazis have asked us to teach them how to shoot,” said Harvey Warren, who shares screenwriting credits and a mutual interest in guns with his wife, Joy.
“A lot of our very, very liberal friends who know that we have guns are horrified--until they get broken into,” Warren said. “Their first call is to the police and their second call is to us--asking if we can teach them how to use a gun.”
No one knows whether the popularity of firearms in Hollywood today is any greater than among the general population. But the list of celebrities known to have an interest in guns ranges from Buddy Hackett to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I would feel very naked,” said actor Charlton Heston, “without a 12-gauge shotgun under my bed and a .38-caliber revolver in the drawer of my night table.”
Since 1987, Heston has hosted an annual celebrity shooting competition in Dana Point. The first event attracted 40 participants. Last year, it drew 250.
“There’s a great deal of public misperception about people who own and use firearms,” Heston said. “So much so that ‘gun nut’ has almost become the noun of choice and, of course, that’s wildly inaccurate. Most all people who are seriously interested in firearms are very well-trained in their use and in preserving the strictest safety standards.”
Money raised from Heston’s first celebrity shoot went to Childcare USA, an organization for abused children. Since then, contributions from the event have gone to the National Rifle Assn. to help sponsor the U.S. Olympic shooting team, according to Heston, an ardent NRA supporter who learned to shoot as a boy in rural Michigan.
There have always been prominent shooting enthusiasts in Hollywood--Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and John Wayne among them.
But as the level of violence in society has grown, Hollywood’s interest in guns has become less about sport or image and more about self-defense, many say.
Some people, including actor Erik Estrada and comedian Norm Crosby, sometimes get together with others in the entertainment industry and take target practice at shooting ranges.
Crosby, records show, is among the few civilians who have a permit from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to carry a concealed pistol. He got the permit, he told The Times in 1989, because he drove a Rolls-Royce and feared being robbed.
At least two organizations devoted to guns and people in the entertainment industry have sprung up in recent years.
The Television and Motion Picture Shooting Assn. is open to anyone from performers to grips and is believed to have a membership exceeding 200. The association’s president, producer John Strong, refused to provide any details about the organization.
Smaller and less formal is “Armed and Literate,” a group of about 20 screenwriters who meet monthly for lunch followed by a trip to the shooting range.
“We wanted to do something to respond to the pro-gun control people . . . to let them know that, ‘Hey, wait a minute, being a writer and owning a firearm is not a freak thing,’ ” said screenwriter Art Eisenson, whose credits include “Kojak” episodes and “The Gangster Chronicles.”
Eisenson’s colleagues, the screenwriting Warrens, said they became hooked on shooting a few years ago when they tagged along with producer Kenneth Hyman (“Dirty Dozen”) and director John Milius (“Magnum Force,” “Conan the Barbarian”) to the Oak Tree Gun Club in Newhall.
After blasting holes in paper targets, the group drove to a Tommy’s restaurant and ate chili burgers, Harvey Warren said. The shooting-and-burgers outing has become a ritual with the Warrens--not to mention a potential major motion picture.
Last year, the couple wrote a screenplay called “Shooters.” In it, a group of yuppies learn to shoot at a target range in Newhall, stop off afterward at a Tommy’s restaurant, get caught in the middle of a gunfight and end up having to rescue the cops from the crooks.
The film is in development.
“I always thought handguns were only good for killing people,” Warren said, “then I found out that it’s a tremendous sport. . . . When you pick up a deadly weapon and you know you have to treat it very carefully, it takes a lot of concentration and it’s very relaxing.”