TV REVIEW : A Chilling ‘Generation Under the Gun’


To the classic three R’s of education, add a major fourth: revolvers. The disturbing statistics in tonight’s half-hour MTV special, “Generation Under the Gun” (at 9 p.m.), suggest that illegal gun ownership is about as rampant as sexual activity among urban teens.

With a cited Harris poll indicating one in every 25 high-schoolers has actually carried a gun to school , Bosnia doesn’t seem so exotic.

At least beleaguered L.A. doesn’t take any more hits from the program. Instead, host Tabitha Soren takes a look at troubled school districts in New York City (school metal-detector central), New Orleans (where one in five kids believe they’ll be shot before they’re 25) and Omaha.

One of the questions Soren addresses kids with is whether violent films and music affect their choices to take up arms, in an age when rap stars with rap sheets are, as she puts it, “blurring the line between image and reality.”



Most give the party line that such entertainment is more of a reflection than an instigation: “No, we got our own videos around here,” one teen says.

But out Nebraska way, where there’s a burgeoning contingent of gangsta wanna-bes, the kids are more willing to admit that entertainment has helped spawn a violent subculture, with one set talking about how the movie “Colors” inspired the formation of heartland gangs.

Soren narrates with scenes behind her ranging from school body searches to carnage in the emergency room to cautionary classroom visits by paralyzed ex-’bangers. And more and more statistics: American firearm production went up 42% between 1985-89, which probably reflects less of a sudden craze for big-game than the fact that nowadays even Wally and the Beav might be found packing.

Not much good news in this half-hour, which has only MTV’s hip-hop soundtrack for some buoyancy amid the downward spiral of sudden death as a blase fact of life. When Soren announces that “there is hope for this generation under the gun” at show’s end, you may be hard-pressed to guess just where she finds it.