‘The Price of Freedom’ Review: Guns Across America

The title “The Price of Freedom” refers to the death toll that the gun lobby would dismiss as simply the cost of Second Amendment rights. Bill Clinton, among other interviewees in this documentary, disputes that idea. If the deaths of innocents are necessary for people to exercise their freedom, the former president says, the logical conclusion is “that we don’t really have mutual responsibilities to each other. It’s a very high price.”

The movie, directed by Judd Ehrlich, takes viewers through the history of the National Rifle Association, explaining competing factions in the 1970s and charting the increasing radicalization of the organization’s rhetoric. Ehrlich interweaves images of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection and commentary from Mary Anne Franks, a law professor, who says there’s now a version of Second Amendment thinking that encourages people to believe they can “stop democracy itself” and are “honoring the Constitution by doing so.”

Muckraking documentaries often conclude with declined-to-comment disclaimers, but David Keene, a former N.R.A. president, is here. Toward the end, he chillingly cautions anyone who thinks the N.R.A. might disappear.

Parents like Nicole Hockley and Fred Guttenberg, whose children were killed in school shootings, offer powerful testimony. So does Representative Lucy McBath of Georgia, whose son’s shooter, ultimately convicted, claimed self-defense in a case that put further scrutiny on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But Ehrlich also provides a note of optimism from the hunting enthusiast Wes Siler and the gun-owning academic Cassandra Crifasi, who suggest that a warped political dialogue has obscured gun owners’ widespread support for safety measures.

The Price of Freedom
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. In theaters.

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