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Katie Couric documentary examines gun laws amid Chicago violence

Journalist Katie Couric and documentary filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig set out to answer one question: Why is it so difficult to enact "common-sense" gun regulations, despite the outrage sparked by multiple mass shootings?

The pair and their production team visited families affected by shootings in Newtown, Conn.; Aurora, Colo.; and outside Tucson, Ariz., but they also wanted a representation of the toll of urban violence.

"Every day, we get a news feed of shootings that have occurred and Chicago just kept coming up. It was like every other day, three killed, five killed," Soechtig told the Tribune in a recent interview at the W Chicago Lakeshore Hotel.

Couric visited Chicago last year and met with the support group Purpose Over Pain, which is based on the South Side, and Pamela and Tom Bosley, whose teenage son Terrell was shot to death in a West Pullman church parking lot in 2006. Their stories are featured in the "Under the Gun" documentary, set to air at 7 p.m. Sunday on the Epix network.

The struggles shared by the Bosleys; former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at an event outside Tucson in January 2011; and the Bardens, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012, are intermixed with interviews with gun owners about the strength of gun laws.

The documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, spotlights Chicago as it endures growing gun violence. More than 50 people were shot last weekend, making it the city's most violent weekend since the end of September, according to Tribune reporting. And yet, despite the national headlines, violence in Chicago doesn't seem to generate the same outcry as it does in other cities.

"We talk about five people or six people shot somewhere in a mass shooting or in a mall or at Fort Hood, or whatever, and the whole country is outraged, as they should be. But that happens in a night in Chicago and they call it another night in Chicago," the Rev. Michael Pfleger, pastor of St. Sabina Catholic Church in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, says in "Under the Gun."

Terrell Bosley, an Olive-Harvey College student, was killed while unloading musical instruments before band practice. Pamela Bosley, who co-founded the Purpose Over Pain group that helps families who lose children to gun violence, said she fears for her other children.

"You can hear gunshots once a week, once every other week. So that's why I'm so afraid to have my children go out and play basketball, walk to the store and (there's) a basketball court maybe, like, two blocks from my house," Bosley says in "Under the Gun." "I don't let them go there because I'm afraid of them being shot, so they actually have to stay right in the back of my house and shoot basketball. And I feel bad as a mother to treat them like that, but I just cannot afford to lose another child to violence. I can't do it."

Bosley points to easy access to guns as part of the problem in Chicago. The documentary shows a group that includes Pfleger and the Rev. Jesse Jackson protesting a south suburban gun shop they say sold a large number of guns that were used in multiple Chicago crimes. Protesters called for the shop to commit to conducting universal background checks, video-recording gun sales and selling only one handgun per person per month to prevent sales later on street corners.

The confrontation gets heated as patrons stand by the gun shop and reaffirm their Second Amendment rights. An unnamed shop supporter is quoted saying, "What Chicago needs isn't more gun legislation, what Chicago needs is more gun ownership among the good guys."

Couric said she found through her reporting that an obstacle to reform is the National Rifle Association and its supporters in Congress. She said the gun group opposes extensive background checks on gun buyers, though Couric said she talked to many gun owners who favor checks. She said she hopes her documentary spurs "rational conversation" on this topic.

"I hope that people will see that there is indeed a lot of common ground between gun owners and people who don't feel comfortable with guns and would never own them," Couric said.

tswartz@tribpub.com

Twitter @tracyswartz

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