Guest Post: Is Hunger Games an NRA Advertisement? Mockingjay Discussion Point 29

Tim Schock thinks Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins is making a pro-gun statement inside her ‘horrors of war’ piece. Prepare to be “schocked” if you think Mockingjay is an argument for gun-control; here are the passages from the text that suggest Ms. Collins is telling us the only way to keep the Capitol and District 13 Brave New World technocrats from taking over our lives (with their senseless wars) is to keep and bear arms.

Take it away, Tim Schock!

Is it possible to deplore violent atrocities while still maintaining a belief in the necessary right for free people to keep and bear arms?

The Hunger Games says yes!

The Hunger Games chapter 1 bears the following passages:

Even though trespassing in the woods is illegal and poaching carries the severest of penalties, more people would risk it if they had weapons. But most are not bold enough to venture out with just a knife.


My bow is a rarity, crafted by my father along with a few others that I keep well hidden in the woods, carefully wrapped in waterproof covers. My father could have made good money selling them, but if the officials found out he would have been publicly executed for inciting a rebellion.

Mockingjay chapter 3 contains the following:

District 13 confiscated my tube of skin ointment for use in the hospital, and my bow and arrows because only guards have clearance to carry weapons. They’re in safekeeping in the armory.

Those readers among us who are Americans (should) understand that we possess the right to keep and bear arms. Guns, knives, bows and arrows or whatever else we might construe as a viable weapon. Clearly in the Capitol’s Panem, citizens are forbidden from keeping arms. Anyone who does so is branded a rebel and is executed. We of course understand that the citizens of Panem are not citizens as those of us consider ourselves today, they are slaves and it would be quite difficult to keep a group of armed slaves in line now wouldn’t it?

Later, when Katniss is introduced to District 13, her bow and arrows are confiscated. At the moment we view District 13 as a good place, where there is little reason to fear tyrants. In the end, we realize that President Coin’s District 13 is no better than Snow’s Capitol controlled Panem. We come to understand that Coin fears Katniss just as Snow did. Logic follows that she would also fear any number of citizens who might oppose her regime. District 13, as militaristic as it is, still does not allow it’s citizens to bear arms.

While the enclosed nature of District 13, and it’s meager food supply do pose certain risks that might prevent even the most benevolent leaders from encouraging citizens to keep arms it seems that Collins has included the above passage for a reason.

This was our first hint that District 13 and The Capitol; that Snow and Coin are one in the same. Repressive governments never allow citizens to keep and bear arms. This is an undeniable fact throughout history. There have been a scant few societies during the time of man that can truly be called free, and they have all understood the necessity of the people to keep and bear arms. Collins recognizes this and makes it a point to demonstrate that both governments, as we are first introduced to them, forbid this.

This is an interesting parallel to Collins’ clear distaste for wanton violence, but the theme of the series isn’t to deplore all violence. It is to deplore all violence that is unjust, and to help her readers see the difference between the two. Through the subtext in the books she asks us to examine and value our rights, the question of the right to keep and bear arms is a perfect example.

We must ask ourselves, would the citizens of Panem be enslaved if they had retained these rights? Would these people have allowed themselves to be so dehumanized if they had retained the ability to provide for and defend themselves? What situations in the books could have been prevented had the people retained these rights?

Lastly, is it possible to deplore violent atrocities while still maintaining the belief that it is necessary for free people to be able to arm themselves in self-defense? I certainly believe it is, and I believe the author does as well…what do the rest of you think?


  1. I agree with most of your analysis about the right to bear arms within The Hunger Games. However, I disagree with your statement about Collins not deploring all violence. The series makes a very strong argument about the negative effects of all violence, not just unjust violence. Each of the victors from previous Hunger Games that we get to know in the series has debilitating psychological aftereffects from the violence of the games. Those tributes were generally thrown into the arena against their will. Any violence they committed could be justified as self defense. Nevertheless, each suffered from that violence for the remainder of his or her life.

    I think that Collins understands that violence is sometimes necessary. After all, the end of the series seems to show Panem as a much better place to live than before the revolution. However, even violence that is just has terrible effects for the people involved.

  2. The HGs were atrocities of violence in and of themselves due to the fact that they were one of the tools of Capitol domination and suppression. I feel Collins has given us an excellent picture of dehumanization through the Victors’ various post-Games struggles. Could the Capitol have maintained control over an armed citizenry in the Districts? Depends on the weaponry, its purposes, and the degree of trust between Districts and Capitol. As an American who no longer takes our Constitutional freedoms for granted, I understand Collins to be sending all freedom-loving people everywhere a message of caution: abuses of control will always have dire consequence.

  3. I’ve been thinking it over and I can’t recall a moment where guns were presented in a positive light. The closest it came was when they used guns to “minesweep” the pods. In every other instance, Katniss and Gale eschew using guns for using their own bows and arrows, which often proved superior than the machine guns. Even Finnick is better with his special trident.

    I’m sure there’s some kind of message intended, similar to what Joss Whedon did by having Buffy repeatedly point out “These things? Never helpful.”

  4. Another interesting tidbit…when Katniss and Gale are first headed into the armory with Beetee to retrieve her new Mockingjay bow, she comments on the strict and redundant security measures. “I find the whole thing bizarre because I can’t imagine anyone in District 13 being a threat the government would have to guard against. Have these precautions been put in place because of the recent influx of immigrants?” (Mockingjay, ch. 5 pg. 67) Indeed, an excellent question Katniss. Were the security measures put in place to guard against the new arrivals, i.e. Katniss who clearly is a threat to Coin? Or were they in place already as yet another one of Coin’s superficially benign but ultimately totalitarian control measures to keep 13 under her power?
    You may be on to something John!

  5. Coming from a country where you have to qualify for a firearms license for hunting etc to be able to buy guns, I have rather a different view on this in general. Not even our police have guns, unless in very rare situations. I agree that in the book, Katniss and Gale are more likely to prefer their bows than guns, no matter how much quicker or more efficient they might be. In fact, the existence of guns isn’t even mentioned until Mockingjay when they are in full blown war (unless the peacekeepers have them, I don’t remember). Guns are, and should always be a last resort. Think of how many times Katniss would have died if Haymitch had a loaded gun under his pillow when she woke him, instead of a knife? Guns are used in war. And nothing good comes from war. That seems to be the main message in Mockingjay.

    Even in the hunger games, no guns are mentioned, only more old fashioned weapons, or things like Beetee’s wire. probably because it’s too horribly efficient a weapon to give to someone. It would make the victor simply the person who had the gun.

    When Katniss hunts in the woods, it’s with her bow, not a gun. There’s almost a sense of art and quiet beauty to her hunting.

    When Peeta has a gun with the star squad it’s viewed as dangerous in the wrong hands, and he seems better off once it’s taken away.

    I suppose from a pro-gun view point, there could be a different interpretation, and indeed if you include bows and knives etc, then it does seem to advocate using these weapons, but only on desperate times when the things are needed, or for hunting purposes so they can stay alive.

    But overall, it seems that the author’s portrayal of guns is not usually as one of protection and safety from others, but something that spurs on endless killing, and those with the guns are usually the ones hurt the most. (ie, Katniss and Gale with their bows and Peeta unarmed survive while most of the other soldiers in the squad die). Her biggest message is that war benefits no one involved in it, those willing to wage it are usually just as bad as each other, and uses of violence, weapons and guns are notoriously connected with death, destruction, guilt and the irrational cruelty which shadows the games themselves, but is amplified in war.

    No gun ever helped in the end.

  6. If someone was shooting at you, you might find a gun quite helpful in being able to defend yourself . In the late 1800’s after the war of succession , many southern towns and city’s were passing laws prohibiting blacks from carrying guns ( for their own protection of course ). Hence the formation of the NRA. Yes to protect the rights of blacks! I personally never leave home without a firearm . Not because I hope to use it but would rather have one and not need it than need one and not have it. Same reason I keep a fire extinguisher on hand . Just a thought.

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