During the pandemic (especially) all the ills – social or otherwise – of the United States have been brought forward and discussed. For many this has been a long time coming. The discussion and attempt to heal racial relations there is long past due. Another issue which is being looked at is the gun culture and the damage it does. In 2020 there were an astounding nearly 600 mass shootings in the U.S. That is frightening! The numbers rose even within the time of a pandemic and lockdowns. Lives have been needlessly lost due to that country’s reluctance to add more restrictions to gun ownership.

Besides the loss of human lives (and all that entails) another cost of the gun culture is the damage it does to the psyche of young people. How could you even begin to measure that? Would be overwhelming a task, I presume, as it is most likely quite pervasive. From a very young age kids are exposed to guns and the violence associated with them. So much so that they actually normalize this. Entire generations are growing up this way. It has to stop.

Director Travis Andrade addresses this very issue in his short film Wesley. It is a 14 minute film about an 11-year-old boy who has an older brother who he idolizes and a mother (Chad Morgan – Pearl Harbor, The Purge: Anarchy) who seems a little detached. When a friend (Jonathan Irwin) of Wesley’s (Jacob Sandler – Ad Astra) older brother (Noah Greenly – first film) brings a 3D printed gun around, the 11-year-old wants it. His reaction is want it rather than be frightened of it. As typically happens the teenagers tell the young boy to buzz off. That is not the end of it.

An 11-year-old’s brain is still developing. It is vulnerable to good and bad influences. Here his admiration leads to fantasizing about something so awful that he is involved in. Something which should be seen as horrifying and not make its way into his brain. But because guns are seen as such a part of American society and something which every young boy desires and models their behaviour on because we allow them to play with toy guns or engage in shooting activities like paintball, behaviour which should be seen as deviant or just plain evil becomes something they have normalized. Or worse, fantasize about.

A film which looks at the subject from a different vantage point. Draws attention to the issue in both subtle and more overt ways. That combo is rather effective. Really leaves a mark.