1 in 3 TV Shows Depict a Character Discharging a Firearm, New Study Finds

60% of popular TV includes gun-related content, most of which occurs in police shows, according to a study by the Norman Lear Center

Law & Order: SVU, FBI: Most Wanted, The Rookie
Law & Order: SVU (NBC), FBI: Most Wanted (CBS), The Rookie (ABC)

One in three episodes of popular television shows depict at least one character discharging a firearm, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Hollywood, Health & Society program at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center.

The study was released ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Uvalde, Texas shooting that claimed 21 lives on May 24, 2022. 

The study on gun violence and its representation in the media, titled “Trigger Warning: Gun Guidelines For The Media,” doesn’t mention any current TV series, but, not surprisingly, it found that most instances of gunfire occurred on police shows.

The study also suggests guidelines for depictions of gun usage, such as “avoid portraying law enforcement use-of-force as heroic,” and “consider law enforcement characters facing consequences, or at least scrutiny for their actions, which are rarely depicted.”

“I couldn’t be prouder that the Center which bears my name is releasing this report about gun safety and the entertainment industry,” Lear said in a statement shared with TheWrap. “How guns are portrayed on screen should reflect the public health crisis we are in, and help portray responsible gun ownership.”

“The Lear Center’s message to the creative community in this report comes down to this: Treat guns in your stories as if they were real. Because your audience does,” Marty Kaplan, director of The Norman Lear Center, said.

“Hollywood leaders want to use their talents and voices to inspire positive culture change,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady, the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention group. “Outraged by the tragedy in Uvalde, this time last year about 300 leading writers, directors, and producers signed Brady’s open letter committing to modeling gun safety on screen. Now, they have a roadmap to turn that commitment into tangible change. We’ve heard many creatives share examples of meaningful changes they’ve made since signing the pledge, so I am excited for the life-saving impact that will come now that the community has this important tool.”

According to research conducted by the USC Norman Lear Center Media Impact Project (MIP), gun storylines are most likely to affect the views of viewers who don’t own guns, but they “do still have an effect” on the opinions of those who do.

Lear is the Emmy-winning creator of multiple groundbreaking TV shows, including “All in the Family” and “One Day at a Time.”

For more information on the study, go to hollywoodhealthandsociety.org.