Drawings by Drew Christie from his work in progress.
Drew Christie hates guns. He didn't grow up around them, he doesn't understand why so many people love them, and he doesn't want them in his house. Guns just kill people. That's what they do best. And if you own one, it's more likely to harm you or someone you love than protect you or someone you love from some burglar. Christie (beer in one hand, sketchbook in another, sun in the sky) was saying these things to me as we sat on the porch of his Central District home. The house is yellow and huge, and it was first owned in the old times by a tobacco merchant. In the 1960s, it became a home for nuns. Now it's where he sleeps, eats, and does art.
But who exactly is Christie? He is a local filmmaker and animator whose work appears regularly in the New York Times' Op-Docs series. A short film of his, Song of the Spindle, screened at Sundance in 2012. Also in 2012, he was a finalist for a Stranger Genius Award in film. Because his films involve a lot of historical, social, and scientific facts, Christie is constantly researching this and that neglected or forgotten part of American culture. His current but not complete animation project about the cultural history of guns—working title: The Haunting of America—was under way even before Newtown returned gun control to the center of mainstream politics.
Three things in his research so far have caught Christie's imagination: One, the NRA's idea of Second Amendment rights actually came from the Black Panthers. Two, many of the towns in the Wild, Wild West actually had more gun-control laws than cities do today. And three: There is no more potent symbol of the United States today than Sarah Winchester, the heiress of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, who kept adding rooms to her mansion because she feared its completion would fatally expose her to the ghosts of people killed by the guns her family manufactured.