It's time to stop the industry blame gameWhen British-journalist-turned-American-TV-personality Piers Morgan on Monday appeared face-to-face on his CNN program with the man who started a White House petition to have him deported over his views on American gun rights, I half-expected Alex Jones to slug Morgan while screaming that “1776 will commence again if they try to take” America’s guns.
By: Klark Byrd, The Dickinson Press
When British-journalist-turned-American-TV-personality Piers Morgan on Monday appeared face-to-face on his CNN program with the man who started a White House petition to have him deported over his views on American gun rights, I half-expected Alex Jones to slug Morgan while screaming that “1776 will commence again if they try to take” America’s guns.
The exhibition was the culmination of weeks of Morgan’s insistence that America end its love affair with semi-automatic weapons and large-capacity ammunition clips. It’s a heartfelt plea Morgan has made since the Dec. 14 mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school that left 20 students and six personnel dead. It’s the same plea he took up earlier in 2012 when a masked gunman killed 13 and wounded 70 in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.
In Jones’ plea that guns do not kill people, he mentioned briefly a statement uttered earlier by the National Rifle Association’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, in that “shoot-’em-up” video games must share some of the blame for the increase in mass shootings in America.
I am a life-long gamer. And I took offense at that.
From shooting ducks with Nintendo’s light gun in the 1980s to making headshots with a sniper rifle in EA’s “Battlefield 3” on the Sony PlayStation 3, I have played many, many games with a varying degree of violence. But because I’m a sensible American, I have no need to recreate any act I see in a video game.
And here’s a well-studied fact that LaPierre and Jones may have failed to consider: Violent video games, namely the battlefield simulation-type games LaPierre specifically named during his statement after the Newtown shooting, are highly social games. A large percentage of players communicate and form friendships with members in their squad, which not only enhances gameplay but also is a key to keeping your character alive.
These highly-social experiences stand in clear opposition of diagnoses of the personalities of these shooters, many of whom are said to be anti-social, quiet or meek. In fact, I believe it’s been the rare occasion that any shooter is found to be an active gamer.
LaPierre also included Hollywood in his argument, saying the entertainment industry has desensitized Americans to violence. This desensitization, they argue, leaves us incapable of feeling disgusted at violent crimes and therefore leaves us with an increased risk of going out and committing one.
This, most Americans recognize, is also bunk. Monopoly does not lead us to become millionaires, “Battlefield 3” does not turn us into soldiers and horror films do not turn us into psychopaths.
Most Americans — many of them gun owners — recognize the difference between a horror film slash-’em-up and real life flesh and blood. We watch Freddy Krueger tear through a suburban town, and maybe we cringe a little or scream when he pops on screen unexpectedly. But when we hear of these horrific scenes of violence wrought by some individual with access to weapons, we truly stagger back in disgust.
It’s my opinion that the gun industry needs to stop being childish, stop pointing fingers at other industries. It doesn’t have to come out and say, “Yes, guns kill people.” But it could use its time in the public spotlight to reiterate what would constitute responsible gun ownership.
The gun industry could be reminding gun owners to keep their weapons under lock and key in a gun cabinet, it could remind them to keep weapons unloaded unless they are in use, and it could stress the importance of undergoing training sessions on a regular basis.
Instead, it stands with hands in the air in a declaration of innocence while another American is gunned down in a random act of violence, while gangs chase each other with military-style weapons through urban streets where children play and while another gunman strategizes his run at owning the “worst mass shooting in America” title.
Although I’m a surviving gunshot victim (I have a .22 hollow point bullet lodged in my chest, fired from a semi-automatic handgun and I’m fortunate beyond measure that the hollow point didn’t explode into shrapnel as it is designed to do), I do not advocate the confiscation of American firearms. I support the Second Amendment as much as I support the First Amendment, and I’m in favor of an industry taking responsibility for itself and for those who choose to be a part of it.
Byrd is The Dickinson Press’ copy editor.
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