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Families of Aurora theater shooting victims call on Warner Bros. to support gun control ahead of "Joker" release

Alarmed by violence depicted in a trailer for the upcoming movie "Joker," some relatives of victims of the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting asked distributor Warner Bros. on Tuesday to commit to gun control causes. Sandy Phillips' daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was one of 12 people killed during a midnight showing of the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," also distributed by Warner Bros.

Phillips said she and four other people who lost loved ones in Aurora sent a letter to Warner on Tuesday, asking the studio to lobby Congress for gun control, support survivor programs and end any contributions to politicians backed by the National Rifle Association.

"When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called 'Joker' that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause," the letter reads. "We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression. But as anyone who has ever seen a comic book movie can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility."

Verdict Reached In Colorado Theater Shooting Trial
Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, the parents of shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, speak after a verdict was delivered in the trial of James Holmes at the Arapahoe County Justice Center on July 16, 2015 in Centennial, Colorado. Getty

Warner issued a statement later Tuesday saying it has always supported victims of gun violence and calling on policymakers to enact bipartisan legislation to address what it called an epidemic.

Phillips said she was compelled to act after seeing a trailer for "Joker," the name of the Batman villain portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix in the film being released October 4.
 
Phillips' support group, "Survivors Empowered," and activist Igor Volsky of Guns Down America sent the letter to Warner CEO Ann Sarnoff.

"Companies like Warner have real leverage where Congress has failed," said Volsky, citing recent actions by Walmart to stop selling handgun and short-barrel rifle ammunition after a string of mass shootings. "That's why we are not calling for a boycott of this film. They have an opportunity to lead on this issue."

"Joker" has been the subject of much debate since it premiered late last month at the Venice International Film Festival, where it won the top prize. It's also expected to be a major awards contender.

The film is a character study of how Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill aspiring stand-up comedian and clown-for-hire, becomes the classic Batman nemesis.

The Aurora theater was remodeled and renamed after the 2012 shooting that also wounded 58 people. James Holmes was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Reached by telephone, an employee at Century Aurora and XD told The Associated Press on Tuesday that there were no immediate plans to show "Joker" at the theater.

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