Television programs, the internet, movies and video games often showcase violence.
At issue is whether the content could drive someone to act out in a violent way.
After a February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., left 17 people dead and 14 more injured, President Trump suggested violent scenes shown on TV, video games and other entertainment media played a role in gun-related violence.
On-screen violence has ballooned over the years. Parents should be aware of what their children view and decide whether it’s appropriate.
But targeting entertainment media in the wake of gun violence is off base, say criminologists, psychologists and others who’ve found no concrete evidence of violent content viewed motivating people to carry out crimes.
Consider that video games featuring violence are available worldwide, yet other nations don’t experience this nation’s level of firearms-related killings. Japan, with comparable video gaming activity, had just six reported gun deaths in 2014, compared to more than 33,000 that year in the United States.
Japan also has stiff restrictions on possessing, carrying, selling or buying firearms that don’t exist in the U.S., where states may establish their own laws. Kansas, for example, doesn’t require a permit or training to carry a handgun.
Kansas also ranked in the top half among states — 23rd — in a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on gun-related deaths, with 13.4 firearm deaths per 100,000 people in 2016. Factors to consider go beyond Kansas laws on carrying a firearm, however, to include a need for expanded access to mental-health care, among other issues.
Zeroing in on video games and other media sources when shootings materialize is a convenient way to divert attention from other concerns — a tactic National Rifle Association-funded conservatives find more politically expedient than engaging in difficult discussions over other preventative measures.
When it comes to deterring gun violence, there’s no simple answer. Strategies must be multifaceted. More stringent background checks for would-be gun buyers and a ban on bump stocks warrant sincere consideration, along with stepped-up investment in mental-health services and security upgrades in schools and other public places.
The possible influence of TV, the internet, video games or other entertainment media does warrant further study, as well as reform, should any causal relationship be found.
But for now, it’s wrong to single out such sources as a driving force when there’s much more to address in complex situations that spawn deadly shootings.