Blaming Violence on Video Games and Guns

Call of Duty

Well it did not take long for someone to make a tenuous connection between the Sandy Hook Shootings and video game violence. The Independent (one of the less tabloid-like newspapers in the UK) featured the following headlines on their website:

Adam Lanza: A head full of video games and a house full of guns

Journalist David Usborne writes that, “ He [Lanza] is said to have been a fan of computer games featuring warfare and killing. Did he cross some line from the fiction of these games into some twisted, self-realised reality last Friday?” and that ” Ms Lanza [the first victim of son Adam’s killing spree] also had a significant gun collection. Why? Tragically, it was from there that her son took his weapons.”

It didn’t take very long for the “nay-sayers” to drag out the modern all-purpose scapegoat of video games. No doubt this will garner a lot of attention from the same folks who scream that films and television are too violent. According to these ninnies, our youth are being traumatized by all this violence and are having a hard time distinguishing from the fiction of the game world and reality.

I am sure that there are some “twisted” young (and not so young) individuals who do have a blurred line between fiction and non-fiction. But video games did not cause it.

I remember when I was a teenager in high school in the seventies church groups were handing out pamphlets and getting on television and the radio and screaming to high heaven (pun intended) about horror movies and how they were damaging our youth. The same groups completely ignored the fact that most of the films that they were complaining about (slasher films) were actually modern morality plays. In a “slasher” film, if you did things you weren’t supposed to you died. Underage drinking – death; promiscuity – death; smoking – death; basically if you weren’t a sober, virginal non-smoker your clock was cleaned in a pretty gruesome fashion.

Sure people are influenced by the media. Television went through a Salem witch trial in the 1970’s as well. There was a glut of cop shows and detective shows. You had Colombo and MacMillan & Wife to name just two. Because of the outcry against violence being shown on the telly, shows were not allowed to show acts of violence. In one episode of McCloud you had a scene where a bad guy walked up behind his victim with a monkey wrench in his hand. You saw him raise the wrench over his head and…Commercial break. When the commercial break finished you came back to the body of the victim lying on the floor (if you were lucky) or you never saw the victim again. This had the effect of leaving you wondering just what the hell had happened.

The thing that started the whole “violence on TV is ruining our kids” was two events. One was a made for TV movie called Born Innocent where a young Linda Blair is sent to Juvenile Prison and is raped with a mop (or broom) handle by a gang of prison girls. Right after the movie aired the crime was repeated for real by a group of kids who cited the movie as giving them the idea. The second event was the television airing of the movie Fuzz.

Based on Ed McBain‘s 82nd Precinct series it was adapted for a “comic” cop movie starring Burt Reynolds, Raquel Welsh and Harvey Keitel. The basic plot of the film (as in the book) was that someone was going around pouring gasoline on homeless people and burning them alive. Just like Born Innocent, right after Fuzz aired on the “Movie of the Week” on TV somebody got the bright idea to copy the film’s plot. Also again, when they were caught, the perpetrator’s cited the movie as the source of their action.

So the American television networks had to “censor” their channels and their output. Did this action stop the crazies from performing heinous acts of murder, mutilation and rape of their fellow-man? I think we all know the answer to that one.

There was a similar movement brought against comic books in the 1940’s and 50’s where the industry had to tone down some of their more gruesome comics. Tales of the Crypt was just one comic that got “white washed” in an effort to protect America’s youth from corruption.

Rock and roll had a similar problem, on television Elvis Presley could only be shown from the waist up because of his “promiscuous” gyrating hip action while he sang. Heavy Metal bands were accused of putting Satanic verses on their LP’s that could only be heard when the record was played backward. The list goes on and on.

Books dealing with violent themes and horror fiction in particular have been given short shrift by a public who were desperate to pin the blame on anyone but the criminal who actually committed the violent crime.

But now we have the video game to blame for all the violent crime that today’s youth are committing. Too many hours spent playing Grand Theft Auto or Hitman or *insert game name here* and your child will turn into a homicidal maniac.

Of course Usborne doesn’t just infer that video (he actually uses the term “computer” games) games are to blame, but the fact that Momma Lanza had a gun collection is thrown into the mix as well. Of course that was the lethal combination. Never mind that Lanza’s own brother stated for the record that Adam had mental problems.

But rather than accept that something in the kid snapped that had nothing to do with violent video games and that this something had obviously been building up for some time. The sad thing is, that while people are playing the “blame game” and trying to come up with a palatable reason for Lanza to have gone out and murdered an enormous amount of adults and children, they are ignoring the plain and frustrating truth. We will never know why he did it because he’s dead.

The Independent trying to make a link between “computer” games and the guns that Lanza took from his mother is just despicable. It is attempting to milk a bit more out of a horrible situation without waiting for all the facts to be gathered. By printing the article by Usborne, who is after all only doing his job as a journalist, the paper is adding more fuel to an already touchy subject.

The fact that the games industry has been self policing their games for some time now; putting recommended age restrictions on the games that they release has not impressed anyone. It is a lot easier to point the finger at the games the companies produce than to point the finger at the parents who do not monitor what their underage children are playing.

If anyone has played any of the Call of Duty (COD) on-line multiplayer games they will notice that some of the other players are so young that their balls have not dropped yet squeakily cursing you for killing them.

So the first question that comes up, after I’ve told the kid that his “momma is calling for him” is to wonder where the hell his parents are and why they let him buy, let alone play, a game that is not intended for little kids.

But I digress.

I think that if the media is going to try to make this story run a bit longer, they need to look at the whole situation as the facts become available and not add to an already eager public’s desire to find a scapegoat.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

16 thoughts on “Blaming Violence on Video Games and Guns”

  1. If the media didnt turn these killers into ‘cult legends’ and make them appear heroes to other nutjobs, it would be a start. Roger Ebert summed it up perfectly when he blamed the media.


  2. Well written Mike. Certainly a very difficult topic to dissect as there are so many variables at play. Video games may well have been a catalyst (but may just as likely not have been) but that’s only likely because he had mental health issues. If it wasn’t video games, it could just as easily been something on TV or even a dream he had that may have set him off. Only close scrutiny of his family life will bring us closer to the answers but that may never happen now that his mother is also dead.

    The video game thing is an easy one for the media to jump on. It’s also perfect for pro-gun people to deflect the attention away from themselves. Someone with mental health issues plus easy access to firearms is a cocktail for disaster. Both these things need to be investigated. Video games is a scapegoat excuse, simple as that.


  3. Everyone is busily pointing finger. It’s the media. It’s Hollywood. TV. Video games.

    None of the above, not really. Somehow, we’ve let a small percentage of wackos hold a whole nation hostage. A huge majority of gun owners don’t object to sensible regulation of firearms. Hunters don’t use assault weapons. No private person needs an automatic weapon.

    An underlying question keeps coming back. Since every poll, every statistic indicates that the vast majority of people, those who own guns and those who don’t, agree we need gun control and sensible regulation, how come we don’t have them?

    Local regulations without federal support are toothless. Who is pulling the strings? Somewhere, somehow, money and power are tangled up in making sure that we don’t have gun control … but who are these people? If we knew that, we’d know something. This blame-game is another way of keeping anything significant from becoming law.

    We have these nightmare massacres and everyone gets all riled up … until the next big thing hits the newswires. It’s forgotten until the next time it happens. Until our government develops the balls to stand up to whoever is manipulating the legal system, there will always be a next time.


    1. Well put! For years folks have blamed the NRA for the lack of gun regulation, but, despite having a powerful lobby (and don’t forget spokespersons) unless they own stock in weapons or ammunition companies, what do they stand to gain financially? Interesting times ahead I think.


  4. I love science Fiction. I like a well written and acted horror movie. I don’t own a gun nor wish to slash the guy living next door. I have no intention of trying to set the record for the most people killed in a post office waiting in line with Christmas packages. Those who do turn to violence don’t make sense to anyone. It’s not normal to shoot your mother in the face 5 times before heading off to school. When a man serving a life sentence for being a serial rapist was interviewed by a reporter, he was asked if pornographic magazines contributed to his sickness. He replied, “You can’t screw a picture”!

    The human mind is complex beyond our knowledge. There are similarities between mass killers. They’re loners with a troubled set of social skills. They lash out in unacceptable ways against societal norms. We haven’t discovered what sets them off but we can make it safer in schools with armed, trained guards responsible for protecting our most precious of assets, our kids.


  5. I wish this surprised me, but I hear it all the time. The gang culture is probably the biggest factor for American violence, and that is mainly kids trying to find power and acceptance in a surrogate family when their needs haven’t been met. Video games, from my experience, get the violent feelings out in a safe way.


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