This article contains spoilers about the Arrow episode – Specter of the Gun.
In the 1970’s, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams added the Green Arrow to the on-going Green Lantern series and created one of the most socially conscientious comics in DC history. They talked the issues of the day with informed debate and balance while not being afraid to call out hypocrisy when they saw it. Television shows used to be the same way. It was quite normal for a show to take one or two episodes of a season and try to make a statement. That doesn’t happen anymore because debate is no longer appreciated. Society has become quick to boycott anything that disagrees with their opinion. The Arrow episode Specter of the Gun was a throw back to those comics and TV shows of the 70’s and 80’s that wanted to do more than just entertain you, they wanted to make you think.
Executive producer and one of the backbones of the CWverse, Marc Guggenheim, wrote the episode and took on the issue of guns. Yes, a show about vigilantes focused on the gun violence / gun control issue and did so in a remarkably fair and balanced way. This wasn’t a preachy, beat-you-over-the-head sermon on the dangers of firearms nor was it a flag-waving, freedom-loving second amendment showcase. All sides were brought to the table so to speak. Renee Ramirez, who lost his wife because he didn’t have his gun as we learn in the episode, is a strong proponent of guns for protection and safety. Curtis Holt is for gun control, citing that he is three times more likely to die from gun violence than Renee. But there was more sides. Felicity Smoak kept trying to end the discussions, saying that nothing will get solved and she’s tired of them fighting. And Oliver Queen, an inexperienced mayor, is quick to admit that he has no idea how to fix things.
Everything stems around a man who walked in and shot up City Hall. He wasn’t there because of revenge, he was there because he was angry and in pain and didn’t know how to deal with losing his wife and daughter to gun violence himself, so he struck back against those who didn’t pass a gun registry law. And, we find out in the end, that the man who shot his wife and daughter had gotten his gun illegally, so the registration wouldn’t have made a difference. Which is true in many cases of gun violence and something those who are against gun control laws point out.
But the biggest thing the episode addressed wasn’t what laws we should or shouldn’t have. But rather that fact that we no longer are having the debate. People are angry and aren’t willing to reach out and find common ground. Those who oppose gun control laws feel that it’s a slippery slope and giving in just an inch will lead to their guns being taken away. Those who want tougher laws want to make a difference, but are putting forward ideas that would, in reality, not solve the majority of gun related crimes. If the two sides can’t come together and talk, or people just try to avoid the conversation all together… it will never be addressed.
Guggenheim skillfully lays out all sides of the issue. Green Arrow isn’t the hero of this episode, Oliver Queen is because he put politics aside and talked with everyone to find an agreeable piece of legislation that could help. Yes, he did it in one night with the help of Renee and that is stretching what is believable there… but the important thing to take away from this is he was willing to work to find the common ground. Something folks in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, can’t seem to do anymore. The episode tells us there are things that can be agreed upon if given the chance. Things that can make our streets a bit safer without taking away the rights of citizen.
Guggenheim wasn’t trying to tell us what we should do or how we should think. The story isn’t an admonishment of one side or the other. This episode was to remind us that there are multiple sides to the issue and only when we are openly talking about it can we find solutions. This episode was meant to do more than just entertain us, it was meant to make us think… and talk.
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