by Donna-Christine McGuire
Violence occurs at a shocking rate in the United States. The San Bernardino tragedy was the second mass shooting in one day, and the 355th in 2015.
In a given year, 32,000 U.S. children will die from gunfire-related deaths: more than will die from cancer, pneumonia, influenza, asthma, and HIV/AIDS combined. In recent years, this has meant that 88 people die each day from firearm-related homicides, suicides, and unintentional deaths.
Too many guns? Only if you feel that 44,000,000 more guns than adult U.S. residents, including 3,261,725 assault-style rifles are too many.
But because Americans have been a gun toting culture forever, too many guns cannot account entirely of our growing culture of violence.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, while there are multiple factors that lead to violent actions, a growing body of literature shows a strong association between the perpetration of violence and the exposure to violence through the media.
The AMA’s report on media violence concluded that, “The weight of the studies supports the position that exposure to media violence leads to aggression, desensitization toward violence and lack of sympathy for victims of violence, particularly in children, but in adults, as well.”
In fact, the Surgeon General, the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association all consider media violence exposure a risk factor for actual violence.
Lead by Craig Anderson, Iowa State University’s Distinguished Professor of Psychology, a collaboration of university scientists analyzed 130 research reports on 130,000 subjects worldwide, and reported that exposure to violent video games, with consistent, focused, mental and physical practice at virtual killing:
• increases aggressive thoughts and decreases empathy in youths regardless of age, sex, or culture;
• provides a vehicle for learning and practicing aggressive solutions to conflict situations; and
• creates an active learning environment where the gamer is the shooter, and the killer and destroyer winning is a matter of hits, kills, and tactical search and destroy expertise
• Regardless of age, gender, socio-economic background, or parent’s education, repeated exposure to violent media encourages violent behavior, in school, and as an adult, in relationships and employment situations”
Manage gun ownership and sales? Yes, despite resistance from organizations and economic interests willing to do all possible to block sane, constructive changes.
Rigorously reduce exposure to violent television, films, and video games for children and adults? Absolutely. Now it is
only a question of individual accountability.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths: final data for 2013. National vital statistics reports; vol. 64, no. 2. National Center for Health Statistics. 2013. Accessed June 30, 2015.
Children’s Defense Fund. Protect children instead of guns, 2004.
http://www.childrensdefense.org/library/data/protect-children-not-guns-report-2004.pdf(www.childrensdefense.org). Accessed June 18, 2015
Weinberger SE, et al. Firearm-related injury and death in the United States: a call to action from 8 health professional organizations and the American Bar Association. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162(7):513-516.
Craig Anderson, Iowa State University’s Distinguished Professor of Psychology, March 2010 issue of The Psychological Bulletin