Aurora Victim Families Concerned About 'Joker,' Has Warner Bros. Done Enough to Address Gun Violence?

Warner Bros. Studios' new film Joker has raised concerns with victims of the 2012 mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and some wonder if the movie studio is doing enough to prevent gun violence.

The Aurora shooting resulted in the deaths of 12 people, with 70 other people injured. The shooting took place during a screening of the Warner Bros. film The Dark Knight Rises. The man convicted of the murders is said to have identified with the villainous Joker character that appeared in the film.

News of the upcoming release Joker, which has already won the top prize at the prestigious Venice Film Festival and experts predict will be a box office success, has brought back unpleasant memories for many connected to the massacre.

A letter written by family and friends of the Aurora shooting victims emerged Tuesday, expressing concern over the imminent release of the new film. Addressed to Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff, the letter says that what the group believe to be the sympathetic origin story narrative of the film "gave us pause."

While the group says that they respect the studio's right to artistic expression, they also demand that Warner Bros. take steps to address the issue of gun violence. The letter asks the studio to take a number of actions, including ceasing to make political contributions to candidates who take money from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

"We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe," the letter reads. "Since the federal government has failed to pass reforms that raise the standard for gun ownership in America, large companies like Warner Brothers have a responsibility to act. We certainly hope you do."

Century 16 Aurora Colorado
The 2012 shooting took the lives of 12 people, and left 70 others injured. Getty/Jonathan Castner/AFP

Warner Bros. released a statement Tuesday in response to the letter, claiming that the company had donated to gun violence victims, and saying that the character of the Joker and the film itself did not amount to an "endorsement" of gun violence. The company did not say whether it intended to stop making donations to NRA-aligned politicians, instead claiming it would be supporting unspecified "bi-partisan legislation" to address the issue.

"Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic." the statement said.

"At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero."

The Colorado multiplex where the 2012 shooting took place, Century 16, was renovated in the years since and reopened as the Century Aurora and XD. Joker will not be screened there.