STOWE, Vt. — A gun control-themed documentary film event was canceled abruptly Wednesday after organizers learned that members of the gun rights group Gun Owners of Vermont planned to attend.
“I am disappointed to announce that because of a planned protest and exposed weapons, the movie and discussion, on May 31st, sponsored by the Lamoille County Democrats & Stowe Democrats had to be cancelled,” Ann Braden, president of Gun Sense Vermont, wrote in a statement to her group’s membership.
She said Gun Sense would continue to promote “balanced and moderate approaches to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” adding that “those who are bent on intimidation will not get the last say on an issue that effects so many.”
The movie at the center of the flap is “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA.” The documentary is directed by Robert Greenwald, the filmmaker behind “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” and “Koch Brothers Exposed.”
According to its production company, Brave New Films, the film “exposes how the powerful gun companies and the NRA are resisting responsible legislation for the sake of profit — and thereby putting people in danger.”
The movie examines domestic violence, gun accidents, suicides and mass shootings and attempts to pin the blame for such tragedies and crimes on firearms manufacturers and the National Rifle Association.
The movie carries a 3.9 average viewer’s score out of 10 based on 56 votes on IMDb.com.
Gun Owners of Vermont Vice President Bob DePino told True North that members of his group simply wanted to watch the film and participate in the community dialogue afterward.
“Some people had said maybe we should go and watch the movie, see what it’s about,” he said. “They said there’s going to be a discussion after, just like they say at all their other meetings. And every time we say ‘OK, let’s have a discussion, we’ll show up,’ then they cancel or they move their meeting.”
DePino accused Gun Sense of intentionally misrepresenting the situation as a safety threat, saying a similar cancellation took place last year in Manchester when a public dialogue was scheduled at the local library and gun rights supporters wanted to attend.
“Nobody is talking about (bringing) guns,” he said. “What it is, simply, is they don’t want to talk to us because we have the truth.”
One of the scheduled panelists for the event was Clai Lasher-Sommers, a New Hampshire resident who was shot by an abusive stepfather in the 1970 at the age of 13. Lasher-Sommers has met with former President Barack Obama and recently campaigned for failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
In a 2016 pro-Clinton op-ed, Lasher-Sommers accused gun manufacturers of failing to ensure the safe use of their products.
“In America, auto companies, food producers, toy companies, chemical companies — all of these industries have to take steps to make sure their product is being used correctly and safely. Not gun manufacturers. They’re able to make billions in profits, without being subject to the most basic safety standards. That’s simply not right,” she wrote.
Lasher-Sommers also has been an active member with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.
“She is a national anti-gun crusader,” said DePino. “She was going to be on the panel, and notice there was no Gun Owners of Vermont, there was no Federation (of Sportsmen’s Clubs), there’s no Vermont Traditions Coalition (to represent the pro-gun side).”
Gun Sense Vermont did not return True North’s request for comment.
While Stowe Democrats was mentioned as co-sponsor of the event, the group’s chair, Frank Zieger, told True North “we weren’t planning anything with them.” He said he planned to contact Gun Sense to find out why Stowe Democrats was listed as a sponsor.
Lawrence Hamel, lead firearms instructor for the Vermont Outdoors Woman program, told True North that gun control groups are being disingenuous to characterize participation from Second Amendment supporters as “protests.”
“I can’t recall ever seeing anyone protest an anti-gun event,” he said. “If they want to protest guns, that’s all right — (but) no one has ever bothered them. We certainly wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of an armed confrontation, because that’s what they are hoping for.”
Hamel said he would have enjoyed watching the movie and engaging in discussion. He said he has done so at similar events in Hardwick.