Courtesy: Merrick Morton
Courtesy: Merrick Morton
But that doesn't mean the Hollywood action hero sees a connection between movie violence and the real thing.
Returning to the big screen in a starring role for the first time since stepping down as California's governor in 2011, the 65-year-old Schwarzenegger stood up for his new shoot 'em up, The Last Stand, while making the promotional rounds for the film, which opens Friday.
"It's entertainment, people know the difference," the erstwhile Terminator star told USA Today.
The action drama, directed by Kim Ji-woon, finds Schwarzenegger playing an aging small-town sheriff who has to stop an escaped drug kingpin and his gang from slipping across the border. Naturally, The Last Stand features the kind of high-octane, machine-gun thrills that made Ah-nuld a star back in the '80s in such flicks as Commando and Predator.
But that doesn't mean in his view that healthy people who enjoy watching that type of violence are going to go out and wreak similar havoc themselves.
"We have to separate the two," noted Schwarzenegger regarding the comparison between movie violence and the kind of tragedy that happened at Sandy Hook. "What's most important is that we as a society do a better job to prevent these sort of things. You cannot totally eliminate them. There will always be some crazy guy out there shooting. There are mentally ill people. The question is, what can we do?"
The actor-turned-politician added that as a parent he was deeply affected by the loss of such innocent young lives at Newtown.
"You have kids, so you just immediately imagine what it would be like to have kids in that school," he said.
But he characterized attacks that attempt to hold Hollywood responsible for the demented actions of a few as basically scapegoating.
"It's finger-pointing," added Schwarzenegger. "I wouldn't just go pointing at the NRA that it's their fault. Or video games. Or gun manufacturers. The reality is, it's a very complex issue.
And one when he was Governor that the thesp tried to tackle by throwing his political weight behind gun safety measures.
But as far as Schwarzenegger is concerned, to paraphrase a favorite line of NRA supporters, movies don't kill people; people kill people.
"Look, anyone that makes the first shot their mother, you know that does not come from a movie," he said. "It's mental illness. Insanity. If we don't address that, we don't have much."