The debate over campus carry across Texas has been a noisy one – and nowhere’s been noisier than the University of Texas at Austin. You've likely heard about the student protests, the counter-protests, and, of course, the sex toys.
But now a YouTube video has upped the ante on the outrage scale.
In the opening shot of a clip titled “Never Met Her,” a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America sign sits on a table. Next to the poster are books: “The Communist Manifesto” and “Hippie.” A woman sets down a big black dildo on the table next to the books. She sits on her couch and turns on Fox News to a clip of the recent “Cocks Not Glocks” protest held on the UT-Austin campus – a protest against the campus carry law that allows concealed guns for license holders on public university campuses.
Then an African-American man breaks into the young woman’s apartment, his face covered with a bandana. The young woman picks up the dildo and points it at him, shouting. He shoots her in the head. Blood splatters across the framed Moms Demand Action poster, now hanging up on the wall.
Ana Lopez helped organize the Cocks Not Glocks movement at UT-Austin. She says initially, the video wasn't surprising – there have been many video responses to the protest. But this one was different.
She says the student shown murdered in the video is meant to depict her.
"I started seeing images of my friends and colleagues and … footage from news coverage of this event,” Lopez says. “I didn't want to watch the whole thing so I fast-forwarded it, and I saw the girl who looks like me getting shot in the head ... It was terrifying.”
At first, Lopez was so shocked she didn't make the connection between the woman in the video and herself. It wasn't until she showed others that they pointed out the similarities. The video does not use her name.
"She had kind of the same hairstyle," she says. "She was wearing the same shirt that I wore for the protest."
Brett Sanders directed the video.
"This video really was just a direct rebuttal to the lunacy that I saw happening down there in Austin,” he tells Texas Standard. "I thought it was a very dangerous idea to do that – to announce to the world that you are unarmed, and you are going to be an easy target and an easy victim to some of the crazy criminals out there."
Lopez has already spoken with the police and says the Southern Poverty Law Center is next on her call list.
"I feel like I don't want these extremists to get away with what they've done," she says, "because this is not just a singular jab or attack."
But Sanders says this had nothing to do with her. He says that when his team cast the character for their film, he didn’t know who Lopez was.
“It was not set up or meant to be any particular person,” Sanders says. “It was just meant to be a girl that was part of their protest."
Lopez says that there's been "scaffolding" of rhetoric from both sides.
“We've really continued the dialogue in a way that's never been done before,” Lopez says. “We're not carrying anything that could potentially kill someone or harm someone in any way. But we get a lot more of an inflammatory reaction. What we're doing is we're making people uncomfortable, we're keeping them uncomfortable. I want to prevent the normalization of this gun culture that we see."
Sanders says that’s also what his movie was meant to do: create a dialogue. He says he planned, shot and released the video in a span of four days.
"This was not a well-thought out, well-planned, well-funded movie,” he says. “This was using whoever I had who was willing to play the part and whoever could make this come together."
He says he has no regrets – although many question his casting of an intimidating African-American as a murderer in his video.
"He just happened to be in my friend circle – and statistically, African-Americans are more prone to create violent crimes,” Sanders says. “It does play into the stereotype, whether we like it or not. He was willing to play the part."
The most recent FBI crime data shows that in 2014, white people committed 59.4 percent of all violent crimes. Black people committed 37.7 percent of all violent crimes.
Sanders says the point of the video was to play out the idea that “gun-free zones” are actually “killing zones” – where unarmed law-abiding citizens advertise their vulnerability to criminals.
“If reality makes people feel uncomfortable,” Sanders says, “then I think we achieved our goals and we started the right conversation."
Listen to the full interviews with Brett Sanders and Ana Lopez in the audio player above.
Post by Allyson Michele and Beth Cortez-Neavel.