The Stoneman Douglas shooting on Valentine’s Day left 17 dead among the students and faculty of the Florida High School, located in the city of Parkland in the greater Miami metro area. It was the 28th mass shooting of 2018 in the United States, and since that day at least six more have taken place, according to the Gun Violence Archive. A mass shooting is generally defined as an incident that kills or wounds four or more people, committed by a gunman who selected their victims “somewhat indiscriminately.”
Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut where a gunman killed 20 children and 6 teachers, Vox reports there have been 1600 mass shootings. This has led to a general sense of helplessness on the part of the American public who broadly support gun control measures, according to Politifact even 74% of NRA members want background checks for all gun sales, but see little governmental movement on what is often deemed ‘common sense’ gun legislation.
Yet there does seem to be something different about the cultural response to the Stoneman Douglas shooting. The surviving students have been incredibly vocal, quickly forming Never Again MSD. The group states as of last week they’ve raised 5 million dollars to support the March For Our Lives, a Washington DC demonstration scheduled for March 24 that demands action from lawmakers.
Recent weeks have seen action in support of gun control on the part of major corporate entities as well. Dick’s Sporting Goods said yesterday that they will no longer sell “assault-style” weapons or high-capacity magazines, and will refuse sales to anyone under the age of 21. Walmart, often referred to as the country’s largest gun retailer, followed suit with similar restrictions. Many other companies have publicly declared plans end their partnerships with the NRA.
This groundswell of action also includes fan communities. One such organization is Gallifrey Stands, a coalition who announced their Who Against Guns campaign on Monday. According to organizers, the campaign is “an initiative to encourage Doctor Who fans to take action against gun violence.”
To that end, the group has organized a massive charity podcasting effort: 40 Doctor Who fans, which include professional Doctor Who writers and artists, will record an exclusive commentary to the 1969 Classic Who story “The War Games.” The 11-episode podcast will only be released to listeners who make a donation of $10 or more to an organization committed to ending gun violence. Supporters then forward their receipt to the group, and the commentary will be made available for download on March 12th.
Who Against Guns suggests that fans direct donations towards several groups working to prevent gun violence: the aforementioned March For Our Lives, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action. In recognition of Doctor Who’s international fan base, organizers have said they will honor donations made to charities that work to prevent gun violence outside of the US, and have provided a few suggestions on their website.
Today marked the announcement of “The War Games” as the serial the charity podcast would cover. The group said that additional giveaways of Doctor Who-related books, comics, and other surprises to help spur donations are forthcoming. As of press time, the campaign has raised over $2000.
“This cause is something I think Doctor Who, as a series, and the Doctor, as a character, stand for every time,” said Paul Cornell. “I had to do what I could to help.” Cornell joins the Who Against Guns effort as the writer of Hugo Award-nominated Doctor Who episodes “Father’s Day,” “Human Nature,” and “Family of Blood.”
Other Doctor Who creatives slated to provide commentary on “The War Games” as part of Who Against Guns include television writers Jamie Mathieson (“Oxygen”, “Flatline”), Andrew Smith (“Full Circle”), and Peter Harness (“The Zygon Invasion”, “Kill The Moon”).
Comic artists from the Doctor Who Titan Comics line have also signed on. Rachael Stott (Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor), and Simon Fraser (Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor), will share their thoughts on the episodes, as will representatives of popular Doctor Who podcasts Radio Free Skaro, Verity!, Reality Bomb, Coal Hill AV Club, Mutter’s Spiral, TARBIS, Who and Company, and Web of Queer.
The Doctor Who series has largely shied away from championing weapons as a means of solving conflict. The titular, time-traveling alien known as The Doctor often carries tools, most notably a sonic screwdriver, but rarely uses weapons designed to kill. The character is known for their use of intelligence and ingenuity to solve problems, though the show deals extensively with the repercussions of war and death throughout its 26 seasons of programming.
The early success of the Who Against Guns campaign speaks to that tradition, drawing vocal support from Doctor Who series writer Sarah Dollard who called the effort “a brilliant idea” on Twitter, imploring her followers to “get involved.”
A bunch of #DoctorWho fans & pros are making exclusive content for anyone who donates to organisations dedicated to stopping gun violence. A brilliant idea! Get involved https://t.co/lE4nrZkihE #WhoAgainstGuns
— Sarah Dollard (@snazdoll) February 27, 2018
Alisa Stern, creator of the popular YouTube series Doctor Puppet, tweeted: “I’m standing with #WhoAgainstGuns” to her followers. Her series racks up hundreds of thousands of views, and has over 73k subscribers.
I’m standing with #WhoAgainstGuns. Donate to an organization dedicated to stopping gun violence and you’ll receive some exclusive content from #DoctorWho fans and pros. Details and how to donate here: https://t.co/K8yjbKA9U8 pic.twitter.com/OckN2pLXvC
— Alisa Stern (@TheDoctorPuppet) February 28, 2018
It’s been an encouraging response for the people involved in the campaign, including Verity! podcaster Deborah Stanish. “The support for #WhoAgainstGuns has been phenomenal and continues to grow. I’m humbled by this group and this fandom,” Stanish remarked. “As the mother of school-aged kids in Philadelphia who have lived with this their entire lives, how can we let our children do all the hard work?”
The campaign also includes those who have grown up under the specter of school-based gun violence. Joy Piedmont, Reality Bomb co-producer, was in eighth grade when she watched the Columbine shooting on television.
“It’s unacceptable that 20 years later, school shootings are still happening.,” Piedmont told The Beat. “As a teacher, I regularly practice lockdown drills at my school because this is a serious problem, but it doesn’t have to be. That’s why we came up with Who Against Guns. We’re inspired by the Doctor’s abhorrence of violence and want to support organizations committed to ending gun violence.”
For more information on the Who Against Guns campaign, visit their website. You can also follow the #whoagainstguns on twitter. It should be noted that the writer of this piece, Edie Nugent, is herself among those recording commentary for the Who Against Guns effort.