The NRA: oblivious and talking.

I’d like to take a moment to claim victory.  While the family was partying it up this last weekend I drank responsibly, which means I am up at the crack of dawn happily singing with the birds, who are out in droves because the ten inches of snow we were supposed to get turned out to be less than a half an inch.  I suspect you ladies are used to that.

Anyway, I haven’t touched the news in four days and have scarcely touched the internet during that time.  I’ll be catching up on what’s going on in the world today, but to keep you occupied in the meantime here is my analysis of some of the stupid things the NRA recently took a break from performing fellatio on a firearm to say.

“Guns don’t kill people – people kill people.”

And they’re right.  Addressing mental health issues is part of the problem.  But with bumper-sticker slogans like this, the NRA is trying to tell us that poor treatment of mental health is the whole problem, which it is not.  I had a friend of mine who is a baker for a living use this line on me, so I stole all of his pots and pans – because people make casserole, not pots and pans.

Guns also hunt game and protect people, so I’m not saying guns are bad for society.  But I also don’t think people should be running around with M16s.  I also don’t think we need people running around with unlicensed guns of any type without a battery of background checks to ensure that they’re the type of person who can wield power responsibly, and not some Rambo wannabe with three DUIs.

“Guns don’t kill people. Video games, the media and Obama’s budget kill people.”

Because Adam Lanza was suffocating children with the pages of Obama’s budget.  Fucking idiots.

And video games are corrupting people and turning them into child-killing maniacs? For starters, the evidence doesn’t support this.

As a video game violence researcher and someone who has done scholarship on mass homicides, let me state very emphatically: There is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth. Our research lab recently published new prospective results with teens in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence indicating that exposure to video game violence neither increased aggressive behaviors, nor decreased prosocial behaviors. Whitney Gunter and Kevin Daly recently published a large study of children in Computers in Human Behavior which found video game violence effects to be inconsequential with other factors controlled. And as for the notion of that violent media “desensitizes” users, recent results published by my student Raul Ramos found that exposure to violence on screen had no influence on viewer empathy for victims of real violence. (A study published by Holly Bowen and Julia Spaniol in Applied Cognitive Psychology similarly found no evidence for a desensitization effect for video games.) Finally, a review of the literature by the Swedish government in 2012 has joined the U.S. Supreme Court and the Australian government in concluding that video game research is inconsistent at best and riddled with methodological flaws.

In fact, during the years in which video games soared in popularity, youth violence has declined to 40-year lows. And while it’s natural, in such an emotional time, for people to search desperately for answers, that often results in misinformation. In 2007, after the Virginia Tech Massacre, pundits such as Dr. Phil immediately blamed video games. Only later did the official investigation reveal that the perpetrator was not a violent game player after all. In the Sandy Hook case, after the shooter was misidentified as Adam Lanza’s brother Ryan, the Facebook page of the video game Mass Effect (which Ryan “liked” on his own Facebook page) was attacked by angry hordes.

The evidence especially doesn’t support their claims on a societal level.  Starting with DOOM, arguably the first uber violent video game (Wolfenstein 3D came slightly before it) and certainly the first hit game of the sort, violent crime in the United States actually plummeted.  This is the opposite of what we’d expect to see if video games led to more violent crime on a societal level.

Graph showing a sharp decline in violent crime in America as particular violent games are relased.

Neat, eh?  Of course, the data is pretty broad.  It encompasses many types of violent crime such as robbery and simple assault, includes all age groups above 12, and details victims instead of offenders.  What violent game critics would likely be more interested in is a graph plotting the number of juvenile homicide offenders over the years.

So we poked around the DOJ a bit and dug up this, a graph of homicide offending rates by age.  Looking at the graph, one will see that murders committed by 14 to 17-year-olds peaked in 1993 (again, DOOM) and started to fall from that point reaching their lowest level recorded by 2002.

(The link in the excerpt above doesn’t work, but I believe they were referencing this report)

Without any data (or even a credibility-enhancing graph) to back up the NRA’s position, I call game, set, and match for video games giving people an outlet for their aggression within the safe confines of the home.

But the real ironic thing here is that back in 2006, the NRA teamed up with a company called CRAVE Entertainment to make an indescribably rotten game for the Playstation 2 called NRA Gun Club.

Cover for the video game NRA Gun Club.

In this game, do you learn gun safety?  Hell no!  You run around shooting shit.  So not only do we get to convict the NRA of the crime of contributing to the creation* of a game this bad, but we must also conclude that the NRA helped to create school-shooters, by their own reasoning.  We must de-fund them immediately.

In my best Matt Smith voice: “Alliteration is cool.”

“We should put armed cops in every school.”

I actually support this, to an extent.  Back in 2000, right after the Columbine attacks, Bill Clinton asked congress for $120 million to fund a comprehensive approach to minimize gun violence in school, $60 million of which went toward a similar program.

Clinton also unveiled the $60-million fifth round of funding for “COPS in School,” a Justice Department program that helps pay the costs of placing police officers in schools to help make them safer for students and teachers. The money will be used to provide 452 officers in schools in more than 220 communities.

You know who was aghast and wholly opposed to the plan in 2000?  If you guessed “the same people who eagerly crawled up the NRA’s ass when they proposed the same thing last week” you win a cookie.

Clinton’s proposals drew instant comment from Republicans.

“The White House conference on teenagers is sure to draw national headlines and attention, but unlikely to add new light to these troubling questions,” said Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Republican Conference. He said the solutions will be found around America’s kitchen tables, “not from Washington or from posturing politicians.”

Because it’s about what’s best for the country, not about victory over the Democrats, and how dare you suggest otherwise.  Anyway, the program worked, so I don’t think there’s much reason to suspect that it wouldn’t continue to work.  However, it’s a band-aid fix.

But we need to be realistic about what we’re getting with the band-aid fix.  Putting actual cops in schools would be all-but-impossible.  More likely you’ll wind up with people too bored to be rent-a-cops for the TSA in schools.  And while an underpaid civilian mercenary may help to deter a shooter every once in a while, I don’t think it will do much to put a John McClane clone in every school like the NRA seems to be thinking.  Besides, in most of these school shootings, the perpetrators have killed themselves, so you can’t be counting on the presence of a lightly trained civilian with a uniform and a gun to make a madman think twice.  You need to actually be counting on the ability of said rent-a-cop to be able to stand up in a firefight while taking the presence of innocent people in crossfire into account.  This doesn’t make me feel much better.

But even the rent-a-cop plan would cost north of $18 billion.  Is that worth it?  I think so.  But where do the Republicans think they’re going to come up with 18 billion bucks?  You can’t get that much by cutting from Medicare, and if you’re unwilling to raise taxes…maybe Jesus will leave it in America’s stocking as long as we promise to stop gays from marrying.

“We need to arm teachers.”

This is the most inane thing I’ve heard since church.  As my dad put it…

Perhaps schoolteachers are different from when I went to school, but my thoughts immediately flipped to several of my teachers. There was gray-haired 60 year old Mrs. Fletcher. Had someone told her she would have to train and arm herself I think they would have wished she had actually shot them instead of unleashing the tongue-lashing they would have undoubtedly gotten. How about nervous Mrs. Lee? I would rather take my chances with a terrorist. I think of all of the teachers I had over the years to whom packing heat would have been uncivilized anathema, and I can’t believe any thinking person would promote this as some kind of feasible solution.

Have any of these Rambos living in Mad Max fantasyland thought to inquire if teachers are willing to do this? Given any thought at all to how many teachers we will lose if required to do this? Spent a minute thinking about how these small little old lady schoolteachers are going to keep large and merciless young men from taking their guns away and doing even more carnage?

Suggestions such as this do not come from the minds of rational people. These come from John Wayne wannabees who spend their waking hours immersed in violent juvenile fantasies. We DO NOT need these people making any kind of significant impact on the conversation which we need to have in order to reduce massacres in this country.

Look, I’m pro-second amendment.  I would oppose a firearm ban here in the United States.  But I also oppose stupid solutions to problems, lame excuses, and scapegoating, which is precisely what the NRA is doing here.  And rather than stand on some sort of principle, the GOP seems to just be along for the ride.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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