BBC Three
« Previous | Main | Next »

The Batman Shootings - Amal Fashanu

Post categories:

Amal Fashanu Amal Fashanu | 14:25 UK time, Friday, 17 August 2012

Presenter Amal Fashanu

Three weeks ago I boarded a plane to Denver to report on the Batman killings and find out what this shocking incident tells us about America’s attitude towards guns.  With 12 dead and over 50 seriously injured in the suburb of Aurora I thought I would find a city in shock and its people up in arms about the amount of guns in circulation in the country.   On the first point I was right - many were affected by the tragedy, knowing someone who was killed or injured.  On the second I was wrong. Even after the massacre, this part of America is still in love with its guns – and that’s what surprised me.

Most of the images we see of the USA over here are of the East and West coasts – New York, Hollywood, San Francisco, maybe Boston, Miami or Seattle. It’s easy to forget that there is a vast amount of America in between - often Republican, usually evangelically Christian, invariably in love with country music - and strongly pro-gun.  And Colorado belongs firmly in that tradition, as I was to learn.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon we headed off to a picturesque old mining town called Leadville, high in the Rocky Mountains to watch their annual Boom Day parade. It was a fun family day out with floats, costumes, food, dancing and music – just like you’d find at a summer fete in any number of English villages.  But I was surprised to find that the star attraction that afternoon was a gun display from a re-enactment society. As they marched down the high street shooting off round after deafening round, I was confronted by the reality that guns are very much a part of American culture and history.   As the afternoon progressed they even staged a mock shoot-out on the high street, and the watching crowds loved it.  I chatted to young people in the street afterwards and was surprised to find that most of them were strongly in favour of guns, and many owned guns themselves. In this part of the world, it’s normal – and it seemed the events of Aurora hadn’t changed it one bit.

View the full blog post to access video content. In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

The next day I visited the memorial to the Aurora victims. It’s on a dusty patch of ground opposite the cinema where the massacre took place.  Here, amongst the tributes, the flowers, the tears and the supportive hugs, I chatted to young people paying their respects.  I expected to find that here, of all places, they would be strongly opposed to guns and might want to make them a little less accessible, but once again I was surprised. Though many people had been directly affected by the tragedy, having lost friends or family, the feeling wasn’t as strongly anti–gun as I expected.  Yes there should be restrictions, said some, and yes, we should keep guns away from people with mental health problems, but even here quite a few still thought that gun ownership was an important part of being an American. It was a fundamental right which should be defended.

Denver is a city which has witnessed massacres before – the Columbine shootings of 1999 were only 15 miles to the South West of the city. That tragedy didn’t fundamentally change the country’s attitudes towards gun ownership, and somehow, I doubt if Aurora will do so either.    


The Batman Shootings is on Sunday 19th August at 9pm



  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    This was a terrible documentary. Terribly written, terribly shot and terribly researched. The presenter was just not fit for purpose and would be more suited to presenting T4 on the beach. This subject was not treated with the respect it deserved.

  • Comment number 3.

    Amal Fashanu is a name I wil be looking out for in future. Well done on producing a well balanced and respectful document on a tragic American disease. I look forward to your next outing with interest. Good work!

  • Comment number 4.

    @Grievesy Better for T4 on the beach because she is young and pretty? What a oafish comment. If you aren't embarrassed you should be. Young people are the next top documentary makers, did you forget people age?

  • Comment number 5.

    This whole tragedy could have been avoided. I believe that, even though guns may be part of their culture, they should be intelligent enough to see that guns cause a lot of harm to people, trauma to those around it and pain to everybody.

    I understand that guns can be useful as a precaution; as a way to protect yourself but people with guns in their household are more likely to be shot with their own gun.

    I think politicians should make their opinions about guns known. Then America as a nation can see who does agree with guns and who doesn't, it could help the country to realise who they are voting into office and maybe more of their nation will vote against guns and then people can start coming around to the realisation that guns are indeed awful, violent, man-made machines.

    I agree with ynda20; I think his reaction in court seemed odd, and I think it was way too easy for the cops to catch Holmes.

    From the history that Amal showed us, Holmes didn't seem harmful to others; mainly to himself. Just because he bought guns, ammo and whatever else doesn't mean that HE used it or even intended to use it.

    I think that maybe the real person behind the massacre in Aurora could have escaped through the crowd or even out the back.

  • Comment number 6.

    This was by far the worst documentary I have seen in a long time! Truly awful!! How Amal was given the gig as presenter I'll never know, I'm actually lost for words!! And if any of you think she made this documentary, then check the credits, it was produced/director by someone else! Sort it out BBC3!!

  • Comment number 7.

    @LD5000 I am neither embarrassed nor oafish. And it was not because she was young and em, pretty; it was because I found the interview technique and content to be shallow and weak. In much the same way an interview would be conducted on a youth magazine program. This was a very serious subject not treated with the gravitas it deserved. Sorry, your last question makes no sense to me so it's hard to answer. However I guess you are saying I am judging the program makers based on age. This is not the case. this was just a bd documentary.

  • Comment number 8.

    I've logged on to this page especially to comment on how poor I thought this presenting was. I'd really hoped for the kind of sensible, thorough and entertaining coverage I expect from the BBC...but it was just amateurish. The problem is not that it's a young woman presenting (I'm a 20-something woman myself) - but the fact that the whole presentation (script, tone, level of analysis...and yes wardrobe and delivery) was just awful. Would like to see this treatment covered in a more professional way.

  • Comment number 9.

    Prescriptive, and unchallenging. Gun ownership remains one of the most interesting, confounding, and genuinely complex cultural and political issues in USA. In light of recent tragedy, this documentary failed to overcome the unhelpful strawman dichotomy espoused by many (gun v liberty), and completely failed to unpack the complexities of this uniquely American cultural phenomenon, or the institutions who reinforce these clichés (gun lobby, media, arms trade, fear, religion). Instead of an astute documentary questioning the status quo, the focus of this documentary seemed to be on the reporters endless sunglass changes.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have also logged on here to comment on this absolutely terrible documentary. A few tips for Ms.Fashanu:
    1.) Having wandered up the red carpet at the London Premiere of the Dark Knight does not entitle you to stand at the memorial site of this very recent tragedy and tell the people there that you know exactly how they are feeling at that it could have been you. For many reasons, most of them relating to your position on the other side of the atlantic ocean, it couldn't and it wasn't.
    2.) If you are attempting to make an intelligent documentary about gun crime, no amount of using a 'serious voice' when talking about the subject matter will help you if you are then filmed giggling and grinning whilst taking part in a target practice session.
    3.)Equally, carrying an enormous electric blue leather handbag under you arm whilst interviewing victims, hospital workers etc will not help your audience to take you seriously.
    4.) Whilst you are being filmed talking to said interviewees, I did not need to see quite so many shots of your face, lovely as it is.
    5.) Nor did I need to see your face reflected in the glass of the photo frame containing images of the victims.
    6.) I know what a cinema, a gun, a road etc look like without having to have a photograph of each object shown to me every time you used the word.

    Had Ms.Fashanu and her team been making a documentary about, for example, nail varnish or the cast of Hollyoaks, I would not feel the need to be quite so scathing. However I am appalled that my license fee has been used to allow them to practice their ropey documentary making skills on such serious subject matter - not to mention that it will also now be used to fund Ms. Fashanu's worrying addiction to oversized handbags. The subject matter deserved better.

  • Comment number 11.

    I can't help but agree with most of the comments above, it's barely a week old and Ms. Fashanu is there like some sort of emotional vulture preying on the feelings of a community in shock. She says things like 'I know how they feel, I've lost people to' I would argue not in the same circumstances and therefore whilst she could be sympathetic she cannot empathise.
    The documentary could have done with a) a lot longer time between the event and this crass post-mortem and b) being presented by someone with a keener insight and less concerned with their own image.
    If you want to see a much more engaging documentray about these events watch 'Bowling for Columbine' like him or loathe him, Michael Moore can make a docunmentary.

  • Comment number 12.

    I’ve always considered the BBC to be quite fair in its presentation of various topics, but this is one the most biased and uninformative documentaries that I have ever seen. It provided a very shallow analysis of a very serious event, and the presenter lacked the ability to present this subject with the sensitivity is deserves.
    Although I have lived in London for several years, I grew up in Leadville, Colorado and I also lived several years as an adult in Denver, Colorado. I have attended the Boom Days celebration at least 20 times, and I can assure you that it is hardly a celebration of the second amendment. The documentary fails to note that the annual shootout is a theatrical reenactment of Leadville’s historical past, a past when outlaws such as Doc Holliday, Jesse James and Wyatt Earp appeared after the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. This is hardly more inappropriate than burning an effigy on a bonfire every November, and plenty of non-Americans enjoy watching Western films.
    The analysis of this documentary was not based on facts; it was merely based on the stereotypes held by someone English who had never visited Colorado.
    Facts about Colorado:
    - Colorado voted for President Obama in the 2008 election (i.e. not the Republican candidate). The sitting governor for the state of Colorado is also a member of the Democratic Party.
    - USA Today reports that 1% of Colorado’s population claims to be Evangelical Christian and 2% claims to be Pentecostal Christian, hardly the majority claimed by BBC. In fact, 21% of Colorado’s citizens claim to have no religion.
    - 36% of the population has earned a bachelor’s degree
    Radio 2 plays the likes of Taylor Swift and Josh Turner, both of whom are country artists. Does this mean that anyone that listens to Radio Two is a God-fearing, gun-toting, Republican capable of mass murder? Based on the synopsis of the documentary, I certainly think that all Radio 2 listeners must fall into this category.
    The simplistic analysis presented by the BBC is what I would expect from a nanny state run enterprise: guns can potentially hurt people so no one should be allowed to own one. Let’s just ban alcohol, tobacco, fast food, sweets and video games while we’re at it because they’re also bad for your health.
    The documentary completely failed to identify the type of weapons that have been used in mass killings, or note that the Aurora shooter purchased more than 6000 rounds of ammunition in the months prior to the shooting. Perhaps with some actual research, the BBC would have discovered that a real gun debate would require Americans to differentiate between a basic hunting rifle and a semi-automatic assault weapon capable of mass killings, weapons that were banned until 2004 under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
    The BBC could have initiated a real dialog about gun control, or analyzed what factors are causing young white men to inflict such unimaginable horror, or even discussed why American’s feel they need to own weapons. Instead, BBC has chosen to present an insensitive, biased view filled with stereotypes and little substance.

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Just watched this documentary on the 25th anniversary of the Hungerford Massacre in which both of my parents were shot by Michael Ryan , my mother surviving the massacre my father dieing immediately .
    Amal is a most competent and watchable presenter , although the pleasure she experienced when at the shooting range upset and disturbed me her investigation on the whole was most pertinent and vital viewing . I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future , a most talented woman with a great future ahead of her in broadcasting .

  • Comment number 15.

    Don't be so concerned with the presenting but the actually issue being discussed. How can intellectual Americans still believe the "Right to bear arms" act can still be upheld, times move on and if people don't then more people will fall victims to gun crime caused by people who can get hold of such a lethal weapon so easily. If american society is having to deal with such horrific massacres as they have done in their history, why is it not being talked about? How can Americans be so naive to the fact that with more guns around comes more gun crime! What are they talking about, "we should have the right to protect ourselves"? What does "protect" actually mean to them, that they have the right to shoot someone in they feel in danger? How does this solve anything but more gun crime.

    American politicians are a disgrace. Even with shooting happening all over their country they wouldn't even dream about mentioning the problem of easy access to guns, as it would be political suicide! People are being murdered because they are too concerned with they careers and the thoughts of ignorant and selfish Americans not voting them into power. Why did they even go into politics if they don't want to help Americans? Exactly as the father of the high school shooting victim stated, how would gun loving Americans feel about gun ownership if it was their child murdered, probably not so positive about it!

  • Comment number 16.

    Having just posted I went on to read the comments of others , how terribly insensitive and cruel some people can be to a young woman who had done in my opinion an incredible piece of journalism and work very professionally and coherently , take no notice of them Amal, your presentation was coherent and sensitively executed and your future assured , television needs more people like you describing our world to us . xxx

  • Comment number 17.

    I never write comments but am currently watching this programme and I am APPALLED that this was allowed to air. It is as disrespectful a documentary as you could possibly make done far too soon. Terrible, TERRIBLE presenting. How on earth can you turn such subject matter into a catwalk. I wanted to reach through the screen and grab the stupid clutch bag(s) from under her arm! How HOW can you show grieving family members followed by giggles at gun practise. Atrocious.. BBC3 you should be ashamed.

  • Comment number 18.

    I live in the middle of Brooklyn in NYC. I have seen my fair share of the results of gun violence. So I'm an advocate of more gun control as is Mayor Bloomberg who lobbies the rest of the U.S. for greater gun control.

    Yet I was dismayed by this documentary. I think Fashanu and the BBC exploited this tragedy.

    I felt as if the BBC used this tragedy to propagate an anti-American agenda. It's as if the BBC and Fashanu had already decided what the cause of the massacre was and then went on a factfinding mission to support a lazily drawn assumption. What you didn't do was gather the facts first, then use them to inform a story. It's a multi-faceted and complex issue and this show didn't even come close to examining it. Where is your journalistic integrity?

    Secondly, how could you leave out the 2nd amendment of the constitution which grants the right to bear arms. This omission alone proves the anti-American agenda of this reporter. It's not an unchecked arrogance (as Fashanu implies) that leads Americans to "feel" we just have to own guns. It's actually written in stone i.e., the constitution, for us - how can you leave this out of the debate? Anything related to the constituion is a delicate matter.

    I'm used to these types of British reports on the U.S. where they send out a reporter to the nether regions of the country, find some extreme people to interview only to bolster already existing stereotypes about how much Americans love guns at any cost, eat the worst food in the world are the most uneducated people in the world or some such nonsense.

    Still I feel the need to speak out.

  • Comment number 19.

    Extremely disappointed with the BBC for broacasting such a poor documentary about a very difficult subject matter. If the BBC had to tackle this tragedy, whilst the blood is still drying in Colorado, I would've hoped that it was well thought out, respectful and informative rather than the rushed, shambolic outcome that was presented.

    Everything about this documentary was in bad taste and supplemented by a second poor outing from Amal Fashanu - folloing her equally poor and distasteful debut in "Britain's Gay Footballers" where she shamelessly confronted her father about the extremely sensetive and private issues surrounding the tragic suicide of her Uncle Justin. I have a feeling Amal would do just about anything to get on TV.

  • Comment number 20.

    This was a terrible documentary and I couldn't even finish watching it. The presenter should not have been put in little vest tops with a clutch bag in her hand when dealing with such a sensitive issue! A a more experienced presenter should have been used for this documentary and I cringed watching her speak to people who had been affected by this terrible event. I definitely expected a much more sensitive approach from the BBC.

  • Comment number 21.

    I was completely disgusted at this documentary. To hear someone stand side by side with the people affected by this tragedy and proclaim "it could have been me" just because she had been to the premiere of the movie (let's not forget she name dropped Bale and Hathaway) absolutely turned my stomach. I always associated the BBC with quality documentaries and intelligent broadcasting, this came as quite a shock. This is the kind of rubbish one would find on Channel 5 or some cheap satellite channel. I suggest a career change for Miss Fashanu; maybe a nice little column in one of the red tops is more suited to her talents. I'm absolutely outraged.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks, choccyrockz123, for agreeing with me. There does seem to be little detail on whether Holmes really was just a Lone Gunman... even though there is reliable witness, Corbin Dates being one, of an accomplice and physical evidence. Corbin Dates observations seem to marry with events better than the official story of Holmes exiting the cinema and kitting up and re-entering. Let's hope the police doesn't just fall for the first suspect and let bad guys get away.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Have to say this was a shockingly bad documentry- Louis can rest easy. I mean how thick do you think the viewers are?? The following insightful comment was one of my favourites from the programme 'Guns are much easier to buy here than back at home'.

  • Comment number 25.

    I was disappointed that the reporter made the documentary about her. She posed a lot and made it the amal show. Poor indeed

  • Comment number 26.

    I 100% agree with "Grievesy" and the many others that have made the effort to comment with regards to how disappointing this documentary is. I've never seen fit to comment here before and had to create an account especially to do so - who on earth is Amal Fashanu and why on earth did the BBC see fit to allow her to undertake a documentary on this subject? "Although I was young at the time it reminded me of Diana" Seriously? What on earth is this girl going on about? How callous to even conceive of a documentary on this subject so soon after the incident, least of all leave it to some sort of amateur crew to produce it. From a corporation that is world renowned for their documentary making skills, is an appalling effort by the BBC! To "LD5000" Yes you are correct "Young people are the next top documentary makers" but let them cut their teeth on subjects that have less gravitas than this tragic event! this documentary is absolutely appalling.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'd also like to add to the list of points made on here by emma: 7) Doing a piece to camera about Stirling correctional facility whilst driving down a road like you are on some sort of fly drive holiday, wearing a pair of comedy sized sun glasses does nothing to convince the viewer that the presenter is in any way sincere or has any comprehension of the seriousness of the subject matter "Colorado is one of the US states where the death penalty is still legal actually Ummm.. although the last person who was sentenced was 15 years ago" - "Umm"??? good job! Said in a way that sounded like she had just Googled some facts about the facility it 2 minutes previous! Then cut to close up of presenter still wearing comedy sunglasses whilst discussing the fact that people are on death row - It's beyond amateur and indeed down right offensive to attempt to convey the seriousness of a situation where people are facing the death penalty with out even bothering to remove your sun glasses!

  • Comment number 28.

    I have joined the forum especially to comment about this cringe inducing, soul destroying programme. i have never been subject to such a shameless piece of self promotion disguised as film making in many years of watching the BBC. How this programme ever made it to air passed a succession of commissioning editors and senior producers is beyond negligent. Everyone involved in this loathsome project should take a long hard look at themselves and ask themselves why? The vacuously inept presenter, in particulars, use of such catastrophic loss of life as a vehicle for aggrandising is morally corrupt and too sickening for words. Whilst the programme was on the whole technically efficient it felt very, very poorly researched, rushed and badly written about a subject which needed quite the opposite.

  • Comment number 29.

    Agree with what many have said......I wish I'd had a famous dad opening doors for me......what an awful presenter.....wooden, made a potentially interesting story very could her reading the for the programme, clearly someone had watched 'Bowling for Columbine' and decided to do a cheap remake.....there was even someone wearing a Columbine Shirt at the memorial area.....although that piece of irony did seem to be missed. Just dreadful.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    i guess you were right about having to go back to America to report on another shooting, but unfortunately wrong about it being in 3-4 months time. another shooting today in America, just 1 month after the Aurora shootings, this time in New York.
    I hope "the big man" takes matters seriously now and does something about gun laws; from the 200+ year-old 2nd amendment, something really needs to be done by current politicians.

    Great piece on Aurora and Columbine that you did by the way. i know its impossible for me to know what they felt like, but this report gave a true and honest understanding of what people went through. Loved the piece on the boyfriends who saved their loved ones lives.

    The shows conclusion kind of changed my view on capitol punishment. Although im not afraid of the moral implication, that doesnt affect me; one interviewee said why should the killer have an easy way out when my friends never got the easy way out, she went on to say stick him in general population and lets see what becomes of him.
    She pretty much said 'make him suffer' and yeah, i kinda agree. and now that Anders Behring Breivik was found to be sane an given a jail sentence, i believe in it even more, what are you going to do without you guns and bombs now?


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.