Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA Movie Poster Image
Docu advocates for gun control; tragedy, violence, grief.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 103 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Advocates for a variety of strong gun control measures: trigger locks, safe storage of firearms, background checks, waiting periods for firearm purchases, and strict regulation of quantities of weapons and ammunition.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Portrays parents who've lost children to gun violence as intent on preventing others from suffering the same fate. Activists on both sides of the issue (gun control versus gun lobby/2nd Amendment advocates) are depicted as passionate in support of their viewpoints. Those favoring strong gun control measures are presented in a very positive light, while NRA members and their supporters are granted little credibility, their attitudes immediately countered by differing opinions and statistics that counter their arguments. Gun manufacturers are identified as wealthy at the expense of human lives.


Fatal shootings, bloody crime scenes, tremendous grief are at the center of this film. Some re-creations augment newsreel footage and interviews. Suspense is built in series of situations that end in tragedy. Focuses on personal stories in which beloved children, teens, and adults have been killed by reckless use and regulation of weapons. Frequent statistics, intended to inspire action, show catastrophic numbers of deaths (i.e., "40% of households with children do not lock up firearms," and "between 2001-2010, more Americans died from gun violence than from the war in Afghanistan").


One use of  "f--king;" one "damn."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and The NRA is a documentary that strongly advocates for tighter enforcement of existing gun control laws and presents compelling arguments for additional regulation of weapons and ammunition. Using personal stories, interviews, and statistical data to back up the arguments, the film sends a clear, unequivocal gun-control message to its audience. Many scenes depict families in mourning and reveal intimate details about the victims of gunfire. Newsreel footage and some re-enacted events show bloody crime scenes, suspenseful moments leading up to tragic deaths, and chilling scenes of the aftermath. The pro-gun NRA, gun lobby, and some government officials are portrayed as motivated solely by greed and self-aggrandizement. Perhaps this film hopes to reach audiences who haven't made up their minds about this controversial issue. But others -- already "pro" or "against" gun control -- will either agree wholeheartedly or dismiss this film's contentions. Mature teens and adults only.

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What's the story?

In MAKING A KILLING: GUNS, GREED AND THE NRA, Filmmaker Robert Greenwald use every weapon in his arsenal to take on the NRA for its relentless assault on gun control legislation (all puns intended). He pulls on the heartstrings in his interviews with grieving survivors and in re-enacting moments that led to the tragic deaths of innocents, particularly children, by irresponsible or sinister people with guns. He relies on grim statistics, news stories, even an extended conversation with a killer to make his points about safe gun storage, trigger locks/Smart Gun technology, the prevalence of guns sold without background checks, online purchases of weapons, as well as unlimited quantities of ammunition and equipment. In contrast, he offers glimpses into the extravagant lifestyles of lobbyists and gun manufacturers and their all-out efforts to create a fearful society that finds "self-defense" weapons a necessity. Greenwald looks at tragic personal stories, the enormity of the gun culture as it affects the city of Chicago, and closely examines the mindset of the Aurora movie theater mass murderer and the deadly outcome of his acts. 

Is it any good?

Earnest, passionately one-sided argument for gun control uses personal tragedy, statistics, and political observation to inspire audiences to action; it's a slick effort but lacks new insights. What Robert Greenwald does make clear in Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and the NRA is the influence of gun manufacturers in positions taken by the NRA. While a large majority of its citizen-members urge legislation for background checks, for example, the organization is a staunch opponent of such measures because of the impact on the companies who are the NRA's major funders. Even sane controls like requiring safe storage of weapons and encouraging research into Smart Gun Technology are seen as assaults on "2nd Amendment rights." Greenwald is a seasoned filmmaker, and occasionally his "artistry" gets in the way of his message. It was distracting to watch appalling statistics written on spinning popcorn boxes and fried chicken buckets as he relayed the story of the victims and perpetrator of the killings in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater. Still, his heartfelt, informative efforts can't be dismissed. Will he sway the anti-gun control crowd's entrenched opposition? Not likely. As in many politically-motivated documentaries, it's mostly an exercise in "preaching to the converted." Those are the ones who will want to see it. Mature kids only.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the purposes of documentary films (entertainment, information, or persuasion). In which category (or categories) does Making a Killing: Guns, Greed and The NRA belong? Do you think it's okay for documentary films to have a distinct point of view? Why or why not? 

  • Do you think films and other media are able to change hearts and minds about controversial topics? How does this use of media enrich or hurt a democracy in which the citizens play an important role in the way the government works?

  • Find out about the history of gun control legislation in the U.S. How and why do you think it has become such a partisan issue? 

  • What resources are available to you to "fact check" information delivered in various forms of media, particularly in a film like this one?

Movie details

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