Video games and movies are not to blame for increased mass shootings; guns are to blame
The horrific massacre perpetrated against innocent citizens at Sandy Hook ignited a firestorm, with a chorus of voices calling an end to violent crimes. But where the blame lies and what needs to change is not so clear, and the tragedy may blind people from seeing the real problem behind renewed gun violence in our country. Some may say that violence in video games and movies has a negative effect on people, that imaginary weapons and characters give them a more violent instinct. However, guns, not games and movies, are the problem. If we did not have fully-automatic assault rifles and military style weapons in our country, we would not have to live with the constant fear of being a victim of gun violence.
As a fan of video games with trigger-happy tactics, I can say that playing these games, even Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, does not make me a violent person. No matter how good I am at calling in lightning bomb strikes on my enemies, I know that what I am doing on my Playstation is nothing like the real world. My actions in the online world have no consequences in reality, which is why I do not feel bad for trying to accomplish missions by shooting hundreds of men and women.
Judging by the multi-million dollar success of the industry of violent movies and video games, like the Batman trilogy and the Star Wars saga, many people love watching these movies for fun. However, the players realize that Batmobiles and light sabers do not exist in real life. We get to be the bad guys, killing each other for pleasure in crime-focused games like Grand Theft Auto, where a player in an open-world setting can destroy cars, murder hundreds of people and get away with their actions by only paying a fine to the police, after which they are given their weapons back. The cartoon-like atmosphere that some games create can easily be differentiated from reality.
Although there is a dispute between whether or not the media affects people’s violence, it should be clear that guns, not video games and movies, are the problem. Studies on the possible effects of games on children are often cited, such as when the Indiana University School of Medicine conducted a survey in 2006 that raised concern about an increase in teenage violence, according to the How Stuff Works website (electronics.howstuffworks.com). Of a group of 44 teens, half played Need for Speed: Underground, a non-violent car racing video game, and the other half played Medal of Honor: Frontline, a first-person shooter reenactment. The researchers then scanned the player’s brains, revealing that the teens who played the shooting game had an increase in amygdala, a region of the brain that stimulates emotions, and a decrease in activity in the prefrontal lobe, which regulates self-control and concentration. These changes in brain activity did not occur in the adolescents who played the racing game. But the tendency to react to a high level of excitement does not necessarily result from just a game, but a level of maturity. Therefore parents should educate their children at a young age on how to handle their emotions when exposed to aggression. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website (www.aacap.org), “Some young children may feel frightened or confused. As parents, teachers, and caring adults, we can best help by listening and responding in an honest, consistent, and supportive manner.”
To the point, in a more current Texas A&M International University study published by the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, July 2012, Professor Christopher J. Ferguson stated that “The current study found no evidence that video game violence is predictive of either positive or negative outcomes in youth. Exposure to video game violence did not predict either aggressive behaviors…or civic behaviors in prospective analyses.”
In addition, the Supreme Court took a stance on the video game and violence issue, convincing many people that the debate over whether or not video games affect aggression was over. The Supreme Court website (www.supremecourt.gov) said, “Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.”
The real issue is a result, not of entertainment and games, but of actual violent crimes; people feel the need to buy more guns to protect themselves. If we did not have guns floating around in the first place, we would not have to live with the fear that the person you are walking next to could possibly be armed.
Critics should acknowledge the difference between the unrealistic settings that movies and video games portray and the world that we live in. The media is not to blame for the increase in violent crime. The real problem is all of the guns that people have in the country. The most effective way to combat gun-related crimes would be to take all high-capacity and military style guns, not the games, off the streets of our country.
— By Kai Matsumoto-Hines
The media desensitizes nations’ youth, gun laws need to grow up
Anytime you grab popcorn and see previews at the multiplex, you are greeted by explosives and bullets spraying across the screen. In the United States, we live in a society where violence is glorified through the media and mediums of entertainment, and some can argue that life is beginning to imitate art.
President Barack Obama addressed the nation, as well as families who were affected by the shootings at Sandy Hook in Newtown, in a televised speech on FOX on Dec. 16. “Since I’ve been president, this is the fourth time we have come together to comfort a grieving community torn apart by a mass shooting,” Obama said while members of the audience comforted one another.
Thirty years ago, acts of mass violence — an event where multiple people are killed by a single person or group of people — were more rare. In 1982 there were less than twenty casualties caused by an act of mass violence, according to Mother Jones magazine’s website (www.motherjones.com). However, in 2012 there were a combined total of over 140 casualties caused by seven mass shootings in the United States, according to the Yahoo News website (www.news.yahoo.com). Current media and news outlets cover shootings so thoroughly that the shooters become household names, causing people to commit “copy-cat” crimes in hopes of achieving similar fame, according to an ABC News article.
In the 1980s and before, American television was more regulated to be appropriate for family viewing, not dominated by over-the-top blood-and-gut shows, as is the growing trend. Not to mention the movies, even if rated PG-13, that pump out outrageous and violent plots for the entertainment of people across the country. These twisted and fictional story lines are reasons for why acts of mass violence have skyrocketed, as people who commit acts of mass violence may be getting the “inspiration” for their crimes.
Violent video games, a popular American pastime, were not yet around in the 1980s. With numerous first-person shooter video games where players are encouraged to kill masses of people, doctors across the country agree with the notion that video games cause violent tendencies in individuals. “The violence in the entertainment culture, particularly with the extraordinary realism to video games and movies now, does cause vulnerable young men, particularly, to be more violent,” Connecticut Sen. Joe Liberman said in a Dec. 17 ABC News article in response to the Newtown shooting.
Many of the people that commit crimes such as the ones in Newtown and Aurora are seriously mentally ill and are having trouble telling the difference between right and wrong. “Certain personalities are unable to so easily differentiate between fantasy and the real world,” child psychiatrist Laura Davies said, according to a Dec. 17 ABC News article. “They might not fully understand that the people they harm have real lives and real families.” Adam Lanza, the shooter who killed 28 people at Sandy Hook, suffered from Aspergers syndrome, a disorder that causes inhibited social interaction with peers.
The media’s glorification of violence has made it easy to get ideas about how to commit an act of mass violence. With acts of violence being so common in the media, people become used to them, and they begin to accept them as normal. According to a 2005 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, children will witness 200,000 acts of violence including 40,000 murders by the time they turn 18. This study maintained that when people are under constant exposure to violence, they become desensitized to the destruction that is being committed, and they do not feel the usual guilt that accompanies harming people.
Our founding fathers’ idea of “arms” was not military grade machinery capable of spewing out hundreds of bullets per minute. The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights states that Americans have the right to bear arms, but this right does have some controls. People in California can currently walk into a weapons store and get their hands on a gun if they have never been convicted of a felony, or have never been in a mental institution. If they meet these requirements, people can submit an optional Personal Firearms Eligibility Check, government issued identification, and $20 to be on their way to owning a firearm. The applicant also has to pass a 30-question handgun safety test, unless they qualify for one of the many exemptions to this rule. Firearm owners are only required to take the handgun test, even if they have the intention of owning a more lethal weapon. To buy a gun, the applicant must give their right thumb print, and have it distributed to a number of government agencies. Within ten days, they can rightfully own their gun.
This primitive system is becoming unable to keep the American public safe. If people are going to be allowed to possess military-grade weaponry, there should be a more thorough and prolonged checklist of safety requirements that this person has to adhere to. Under the existing background checks enforced by the government, over a million people have failed to qualify due to mental illness or drug use, according to FBI figures. However, people should be declared psychologically sound before having a weapon before they are allowed to own one, or be in close contact with one. Members of the police force all have to be psychiatrically evaluated to see if they are mentally capable to do their job; potential gun owners should adhere to a similar system. This change would help to ensure the safety of people across the country.
On Jan. 16, President Barack Obama signed 23 executive orders that demand background checks on all gun sales, as well as banning military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines, according to CNN’s website (www.cnn.com). These executive orders plan to strengthen existing gun laws, and also plan to strengthen government funding toward treating mental illness. This controversial change to the long-standing avowed by the NRA that every American has the right to own whichever arms he chooses is directly in response to the Newtown shootings, and is necessary to keep people safe in a world where violence is becoming more and more common.
There have been too many headlines about mass shootings splashed on the covers of newspapers across the country. The people of America need to realize that it is our duty to protect one another, and showcasing violence in our society is not the way to go about it. We are ‘The Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave…’ but also need to be the land of the living. It is our turn to step up.
— By Samantha Wilcox
Illustration by Kimberly Li