It’s been almost three years since Colin Brough died from two bullet wounds, one to the chest and one to the shoulder. Our own school shooting, right here at NAU.
Since then, more than 30 gun-related incidents resulting in injury or death have occurred in the United States. That’s about a shooting a month.
As I write this on Feb. 28, the students of Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are returning to class after 17 of their classmates were murdered with an AR-15 on Feb. 14. They began this morning with 17 seconds of silence and students placed flowers and candy on empty desks.
Many factors play a role in what leads to so many tragedies on our school campuses, the ease of access to assault-style weaponry, the lack of access to mental health organizations. But one thing we can denounce and disavow right now is the supposed link between violence in real life and violence in video games, movies and art.
Shortly after the events in Florida, President Donald Trump claimed that violence in video games and movies may have played a role in school shootings, a claim that, since the late ‘90s after the tragic events at Columbine High school, has been rejected by researchers.
There is nothing new about relating the violence in pop culture to the violence that transpires in real life. According to The New York Times, “a similar claim was made in the 1940s, when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York argued that pinball — which was illegal in the city for over 30 years — was ‘dominated by interests heavily tainted with criminality.’”
One of the more vocal advocates in recent years of blaming the entertainment media for violence is Wayne LaPierre, who heads the National Rifle Association. He says the video game industry is a “corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”
Evidence, however, does not support those claims. In fact, according to Henry Jenkins, professor at University of Southern California, research finds “that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population.” Even the late Justice Antonin Scalia denied such claims, writing in the Brown v. Entertainment ruling that, “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.”
Despite overwhelming research, when actual, real violence occurs, there are those who look to make-believe violence as the cause, not actual, real things such as, you know, guns. The president, last Thursday, voiced his concerns.
“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” he said, adding that movies played a role. “You see these movies, they’re so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved.”
The president further went on to boldly suggest that “maybe they have to put a rating system for that.”
There’s an idea proposed in Josh Fox’s short documentary “The Sky is Pink,” which, though about fracking, lends some insight into how debates on contentious topics such as fracking, or in our case, guns, get constructed in the media. One party might claim the sky is blue but another party may claim the sky pink. Because the latter idea is out there and in the public sphere, a debate must occur, meaning it is incumbent upon the public to prove the others wrong. Trump’s opinion and what he says, however you feel about him, are significant. What he says affects policy, the economy and society.
So now we must again debate this tired argument.
I will not pretend to know at all what the children of Stoneman Douglas are going through, what pain and anguish they must feel when they see an empty seat where their friend used to sit. But when we revisit these arguments, I know we are doing no justice to them and what they have gone through. When we revisit these arguments we are no longer moving forward.