There’s a big problem I see with the conclusions of this study. What it found was that kids from 8 to 12 years old who are exposed to violent movies are more likely to then use a gun, one of the toy or disabled ones provided by the researchers. The study then concludes, in short, that viewing violence leads to an increased tendency toward violence.
Here’s my problem: The toy and other guns were made available.
There’s a decent case to be made the exposure to violent media – movies, TV shows, music, video games – will increase one’s tendency to be violent. See more guns and you’re theoretically more likely to use them. That’s the case that’s been made by those on both sides of the conservative spectrum who want to regulate the output of the entertainment industry.
But the means to act on the impulses have to be available in order for them to do so. The gun has to be available for it to be used. If it’s not available, it can’t be used.
And that’s where the political unity ends. Democrats will tell you that the next logical step is then to enact gun control measures that will keep weapons out of the hands of those most likely to use them. Republicans, though, will stop you and argue that the fault lies entirely with the liberal media and its everyone’s right to own guns, even those with a history of mental issues and other violent behavior.
So one wants to address at least one root cause of the violent behavior and eliminate a primary means of acting on violent impulses.
The other wants to address at least one root cause of violent behavior but then do nothing about the means by which that behavior is expressed.
I would have loved to have seen a variation on the study that sent some groups of kids to a room with no violent toys. What would have happened then?
It’s an interesting hypothetical, but it remains just that. In the real world that’s not even an option. These kids will grow up, most likely, in the same reality we’re in now, where guns are freely available to whoever seeks them out, regardless of the intentions for usage and irrespective of red flags in their backgrounds.
In the movie Grand Canyon, Steve Martin (pictured above) plays a movie producer who specializes in over-the-top action films, a character modeled after Joel Silver. One day he’s shot in the leg during a robbery and has a conversion, promising to put less violence into the world because he’s now seen its impact up close. After he’s healed, though, he quickly goes back to his old territory, essentially shrugging and saying he can’t save the world.
It’s a cynical moment, but an essentially accurate one. We can’t expect the movies to change us for the better. We need to do that ourselves in real, tangible ways. Gun control laws that respect the rights afforded by the Bill of Rights but also respect the right of six-year-old kids to not be shot while walking home from school. That’s much more within our grasp.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.