- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2016

Director Stephanie Soechtig is defending her new documentary “Under the Gun” after executive producer Katie Couric apologized for “misleading” edits made to an interview with gun-rights activists.

In a scene from the documentary, Ms. Couric asks members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), a pro-gun organization, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”

The film shows the activists sitting in silence for eight seconds, apparently unable to come up with an answer, before it cuts to a different scene. Raw audio of the interview revealed that the activists responded immediately and debated for more than four minutes. Second Amendment supporters expressed outrage over the edit, saying it was done deliberately to embarrass the activists.

In a statement Monday, Ms. Couric said, “I regret that those eight seconds were misleading,” and claimed that she raised concerns about the edit to Ms. Soechtig during the filmmaking process.

Speaking to Variety Wednesday, Ms. Soechtig defended the editing decision.

“The focus on this exchange shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the film gave the VCDL a platform to express their views and opinion,” the director said. “It’s really important to keep in mind that this is a group that thinks domestic abusers should have guns and that guns should be allowed in schools and bars. If I wanted to make them look bad, I would have focused exclusively on their radical ideology. But I didn’t do that. I wanted to allow them an opportunity to explain their beliefs. In hindsight, had I known that the NRA would focus on eight seconds of a two-hour film, I might have done things differently. But I made the creative decision and I stand by it.”

Ms. Soechtig explained that her motive behind inserting the pause was to “allow the audience a moment to let that question sink in.”

“I’m the director of the film and at the end of the day I felt it was necessary to stop down and give people a moment to consider the question,” she said. “When you’re making a film like this, the goal is to get people to come to theaters to watch your film. You have to provide a thematic experience for them. I don’t think we misconstrued any of the facts. I think the VCDL made their position on background checks very clear earlier in the film and throughout the film. So yeah, I do think it’s pro forma for filmmaking.”

Ms. Soechtig said she expected blowback from gun supporters for the film but insisted she “won’t be intimidated.”

“If they didn’t find this, they would have found something else,” she told Variety. “Honestly, I think it’s interesting that they’re focusing on what’s not in the film instead of what is in the film, because if they focused on what is in the film, it would threaten their livelihood. This is very textbook gun-lobby intimidation tactics, and I won’t be intimidated.

“I’ve been harassed up the wazoo. If you check my Twitter feed, the harassment has been fierce,” Ms. Soechtig said. “But it’s what we talk about in the film. These types of intimidation tactics are very common. The survivors in the film, people who lost their babies in Sandy Hook or their daughter in the Aurora theater, they get hate mail all the time. They’re getting it now saying, ‘Your daughter deserved to die’ or ‘You’re making this up. You never had a son.’ There is a small but noisy fringe in this country. They’ve been really loud, and to be honest they’ve been really successful in preventing our legislators from passing any meaningful legislation on this issue. So I expected it. What I’m getting is really very little compared to what the victims and survivors are getting.”

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