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Selling guns at the box office

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There is an inherent hypocrisy in Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent announcement of support for gun control when he has given the opposite message to millions of people throughout his acting career. Isn't it time for this candidate, and Hollywood in general, to come clean about how their movies contribute to gun marketing in the United States?

A survey of Arnold's movies shows him carrying a huge array of firepower - Desert Eagle pistols, Winchester shotguns, GE Miniguns, Glock handguns, and dozens of others. These are real guns, many of which movie viewers can buy in their local gun store, at a gun show, or on the Internet.

Research shows that people, especially young people, do indeed buy the guns they see in the movies. Schwarzenegger's message not only is violent, but also provides very real propaganda for the gun industry. "You don't have to look very far to find examples of how movie and television portrayals of guns have boosted sales of those guns," say Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center.

The gun industry received a first taste of Hollywood's selling power in the early 1970s. Smith & Wesson's .44 Magnum was at risk of being discontinued for lack of sales. When it was featured prominently by Clint Eastwood in the film "Dirty Harry," the gun "enjoyed a massive burst of popularity," according to the magazine American Rifleman.

In the 1980s, the television series "Miami Vice" boosted the demand for a large number of guns, including the relatively obscure Bren 10, according to Dr. Park Dietz, a California forensic psychiatrist. Beretta enjoyed a similar expansion of production after its handguns were featured in James Bond films, the Bruce Willis "Die Hard" trilogy, and the Mel Gibson "Lethal Weapons" series, according to a profile of the company in the Baltimore Sun.

Gun manufacturers know how important screen time can be to their business, and many companies try to get their guns featured in movies. One of the most successful is Magnum Research, producer of Desert Eagle pistols, whose website boasts that its guns have been featured in a grand total of 110 movies. Schwarzenegger has often carried Desert Eagle guns in his movies - particularly "Last Action Hero," "Eraser," "Commando," and "Predator." So why does one particular gun appear so frequently?


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