No Easy Answer to Curbing Gun Violence

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

As the nation rushes headlong into a battle over gun control in the wake of the Newtown elementary school massacre, other contributing factors are being ignored, such as the impact of media violence and use of psychiatric drugs on the increase of gratuitous violence in the U.S.

Yesterday’s session with entertainment executives and Vice President Joe Biden is the perfect example of how politicians are mishandling the aftereffects of yet another school shooting that left 20 children dead just 10 days before Christmas.

Before the executives even arrived on the Hill, former Senator Chris Dodd, who chairs the Motion Picture Association of America, was quoted in the Hollywood Reporter as saying that film producers have no intention of doing their fair share to curb gun violence.

“What we don’t want to get involved with is content regulation. We’re vehemently opposed to that,’’ Dodd said. “We have a free and open society that celebrates the First Amendment.”

Participants in the talks included National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith, Directors Guild of America executive director Jay Roth and National Association of Theatre Owners CEO John Fithian.

“We want to explore what we can do to provide parents and others with the information for them to make choices on what they want to see and what they want their children to see,” Dodd told the Reporter.

“[The movie studios] want to be part of the efforts to help America heal, and they are more than willing to be part of that conversation. This is not a crowd you have to drag to the table.”

Their unwillingness to curb the violence in films flies in the face of empirical research showing a definite link between media violence and aggression in children. This link was confirmed by four national health associations – the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.”The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviors, particularly in children,” the organizations said in a joint statement issued more than 10 years ago.

“Its effects are measurable and long-lasting. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.”

The rush to ban guns is seen by many as more of an ideological move by politicians rather than an attempt to confront the factors that have contributed to the rash of mass shootings in the U.S. that occurred over the past few decades. These include failures in the mental health care system to identify and effectively treat persons with mental health issues who could be a danger to themselves or others. In almost every case of mass murder in the last decade, the shooter had a mental health issue and was on, or supposed to be on, medication when the attack occurred.

World Net Daily’s David Kupelian published a list of well-known shooters who were on psychiatric medications when carrying out their crimes. For instance, Columbine killer Eric Harris was taking Luvox, a Prozac-like antidepressant that is known to cause mania, a dangerous and violence-prone mental derangement in four percent (1 in 25) of the children who take it.

Michael Carneal, the 14 year-old son of an attorney from Paducah, Kentucky who killed three and left another paralyzed in a school shooting in 1997 was taking Ritalin at the time. Kip Kinkel, 15, who murdered his parents and two students in 1998 had also been prescribed Ritalin as well as Prozac.Patrick Purdy, whose schoolyard rampage in Stockton, California in 1989 started the rush to ban semiautomatic assault weapons, was taking an antipsychotic drug known as Thorazine along with Amitriptyline, an antidepressant, when he murdered five children and wounded 30 others.

Andrea Yates, who claimed to have heard voices telling her to kill her five children, was taking an antidepressant known as Effexor when she drowned her children in 2001. It wasn’t until 2005 that the drug’s manufacturer, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, quietly added “homicidal ideation” to the drug’s list of so-called “rare” side effects.

Violent video games are another culprit that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pointed out as being part of the problem that must be addressed.  Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, who also had psychiatric issues, was said to be a devotee of the violent “Call to Duty” game, as was Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian shooter who gunned down 77 people in 2011. James Holmes, who gunned down 12 people in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater last year, was an avid player of another violent video game known as World of Warcraft. Holmes also had psychiatric issues.

If the problem of mass murder in America is ever to be solved, the subject must be addressed as comprehensively as possible, not through the narrow lens of political ideology. Reacting to mass-murder with politics will do nothing more than bring us right back to where we started  – with no solutions and more senseless deaths.

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