President Obama has a Hollywood problem -- at least when it comes to guns.
In the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre, the president vowed to examine a "culture that all too often glorifies guns and violence." But as talks on gun violence heat up at the White House this week, some are skeptical that Obama will rebuke the entertainment leaders who filled his re-election coffers and used their celebrity on his behalf.
"It'd be like giving Hollywood the finger," said a California-based Democratic strategist. " 'Thanks for all those fundraisers. Now let me demonize you for one of our nation's greatest tragedies.' I don't think the president has any appetite for that kind of hypocrisy."
Vice President Biden will host a series of meetings with both gun rights and gun control advocates this week, bringing the debate over how to prevent mass shootings to a head. Obama has crystallized his view on additional gun restrictions, calling for the renewal of a federal assault weapons ban, the closing of so-called gun show loopholes and a crackdown on high-capacity ammunition clips.
Less clear, though, is whether the president intends to regulate an industry criticized for employing carnage with increasing regularity. Some have called for tighter regulations on content at multiplexes and in video games or at a minimum, a strong challenge from Obama to those promoting mindless violence.
"If anybody is to take the president seriously on addressing gun violence, he has to call Hollywood and the gaming industry to task for their role in contributing to a culture bent on violent behavior," said Brian Donahue, a Republican strategist. "The tough language coming from the president seems only to revolve around gun ownership and the Second Amendment."
When asked whether cultural factors had been overshadowed by the focus on gun restrictions, White House press secretary Jay Carney simply pointed to the meeting this week between Biden and entertainment industry representatives. Administration officials did not respond to questions Tuesday from The Washington Examiner about whether the president believed there was a direct link between mass shootings and violent content in popular entertainment.
The killing of a dozen people at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last year brought more scrutiny on Hollywood when it was revealed the alleged shooter had painted his hair orange like the Batman villain the Joker before opening fire on an audience viewing the latest chapter of the Batman series. On Friday, "Gangster Squad" will open without a scene that depicted a shooting in a movie theater.
The National Rifle Association, the nation's largest gun rights group, was quick to blame movies, music and video games for tragedies similar to the massacre in Newtown, while calling for an armed security guard in every American school.
"There's the blood-soaked slasher films like 'American Psycho' and 'Natural Born Killers' that are aired like propaganda loops on 'Splatterdays' and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life," Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the NRA, said in a defiant speech.
Biden will host leaders from a variety of gun ownership groups, including the NRA, on Thursday.