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.

  • ResearchToBeDone

    I still think the best reply to that ridiculous, “Guns don’t kill people, people do”, line is the words of Eddie Izzard: “I think the gun helps.”

  • Blair Scott

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

    Therefore, we should ban people.

    “…video games giving people an outlet for their aggression within the safe confines of the home.”

    Agree completely. Video games, especially first-person shooters, are my stress relief: especially when I hear some cocky 13-year-old in Germany bitch and moan about me cheating because I head shot his camping ass every round. ;)

    “I would oppose a firearm ban here in the United States. But I also oppose stupid solutions to problems…”


  • otocump

    ‘Pro-second amendment’ I’ve questioned you on this a few times now JT, and I’m still not sure how this parses for you. What does that even mean? For what purpose? You originally had a line 2 articles back that firearms were a check on the governments powers, is that correct? For what purpose does the second amendment serve in your views, and how well do they align with reality?

    Aside from that ongoing question that I’m confused about, I’m quite impressed with the rest of the articles and discussion that’s been going around here.

  • Matt

    The argument that anyone needs a semi automatic rifle, pumpaction shotgun, or a handgun that is not a revolver is ridiculous.

    Anyone who is going to be dissuaded by a barrel in their face (the basic premise of personal firearm defense) will be equally dissuaded by a twin barrel 12 guage as they would by an M15. When someone walks into your house, you only need to shoot them once. If they have a buddy, a twin barrel lets you shoot him too.

    How many home invasions happen with 3 people? not many? how many home invaders would be willing to let one of them be shot? none!

    How many people have a ligitimate desire to defend themselves with a gun that can be hidden in a pocket? noone. How many people need to defend themselves with 20 handgun bullets? none. That is all offensive capacity.

    If you limit the offensive capacity of all guns in the country, the “criminals who will get guns anyway” will not have the ability to kill multiple people in the street before being stopped, or shot at at a similar ROF.

    In australia we only have bolt action rifles and twin barrel shotguns. All handguns must be over 250mm long and under .38 caliber. 10 shots max (sports shooting reasons only).
    The criminals still get a hold of guns to shoot other criminals, but its been a long time since someone was able to attack the police or kill many people. We still have shootouts, but they’re lame and are over quickly, and children dont get killed.

    • Brad1990

      Ditto here in the UK. We still have gun crime, you’ll never stamp it out completely. But when all criminals can get hold of is a clapped out WW2 revolver they tend to brick it pretty quickly when a squad of MP5- wielding SO19 show up (our version of SWAT). This strange idea that limiting firearm ownership won’t limit gun crime is ludicrous and not based in reality. The only civilian use for firearms is hunting and sport, and for these things you will only ever require shotguns, double-barrell shotguns, single shot rifles or, at a massive stretch, semi-automatic handguns with no more than ten rounds for the sprt side of things. That’s it. If it takes you more than one shot to kill whatever you’re aiming at then you have no right to call yourself a hunter.

  • pjmaertz

    I think the idea to have an armed presence in schools is okay, but in practice, it would almost certainly be terrible. Undertrained civilians with firearms don’t often improve violent situations, they just put more bullets in the air and cause more confusion. Also, the idea of putting a National Guard soldier in schools every day would almost certainly be too expensive, and kind of creepy and police state like. So basically, I don’t know what to do.

  • Improbable Joe

    My handgun* holds 16 rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber, and came with three magazines and a coupon for two more free magazines… bringing me up to a possible grand total of 81 rounds before needing to reload a magazine. The 9mm version holds even more ammo. WHY?!?! What sort of sustained firefight am I going to get into where I’ll need to shoot that much? And doesn’t the fact that they give you that much capacity with purchase tend to encourage the “violent juvenile fantasies” that are surely part of the problem?

    *Coincidentally, it is the updated version of the one pictured on that Playstation 2 deal.

    • Brad1990

      “And doesn’t the fact that they give you that much capacity with purchase tend to encourage the “violent juvenile fantasies” that are surely part of the problem?”

      They also recognise that the “violent juvenile fantasies” are, for the most part, what are selling their guns.

  • Niemand

    My proposal to make the “arm teachers and/or put guards in schools” proposals go away: If teachers must be armed or protected by armed guards then we are acknowledging that teaching is a hazardous position. Therefore, teachers should receive an extra $50K/year in hazard pay. How will this be funded? One of two ways: Either increase the taxes on the 1% until the proposal is fully funded or put a tax on guns and increase as needed until fully funded. Watch proposals quietly disappear…

  • Azkyroth

    Guns also hunt game and protect people

    Hunting game I believe, but I’d be interested to see the data on the sum of suicides, accidental shootings of family members, panic shootings, and stolen guns winding up on the black market, vs. guns actually being used to stop an actual attempted crime.

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    I’m not sure about the armed cops in schools idea. It was common practice to assign a Sheriff’s deputy to Columbine High School prior to, and I assume still today, and one was there the day of the massacre. About the most that could be said for his presence was that the firefight he had with one of the shooters (Harris I think) probably allowed one injured student to get to saftey and expended ammo that might have otherwise been used on other victims. It is highly likely that Klebold and Harris were aware a deputy would have been assigned but that hardly stopped them in any way.

  • MM

    If mass shootings were happening only in schools, I’d maybe be on board with the additional security thing. But many (most?) of the mass shootings in recent years have NOT been at schools (Aurora, Gabby Giffords, etc). And look at Fort Hood, it’s a goddamn military base and that didn’t stop Nidal Hassan from killing 13 people. So armed guards in schools is a band-aid, but it’s one band-aid when we’re dying from a thousand cuts.

  • Gwynnyd

    When the gun fanciers of my acquaintance keep telling me that gun control laws don’t work because criminals steal guns, I keep reminding them that if if *no one* had guns, there wouldn’t be any to steal. Right? Right? What do I get back?

    • Gwynnyd

      hmmm… truncated. I get ‘crickets’ and a change of subject.

  • Kent

    Holy crap!! Someone here has written a solid, common sense approach that I agree with. Most of what I read is anti-gun people, with the idea of no guns in civilian hands or the pro-gun people who want no regulations, so I was shocked to read someone who thinks the way I do.

    As to Gwynnyd, my response is that the gangs are not going to hand over their guns. Neither are the mobsters. If you take away guns from law abiding citizens, you drive the gun trade underground, like it is now with narcotics (no I don’t support legalizing drugs, and will not support legalizing marijuana either), or just like it was with prohibition. Banning guns will allow the bad guys with guns to have an unarmed populace (which is bad) and will create one more thing for bad guys to get rich selling. If more regulations are what you think is needed, read up on all the gun control laws in Illinois and in the sity of Chicago (despite more rules the gang violence has not gone away). Similar situation in Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I know banning guns is just the easy thing to say—and that it didn’t work on a small scale in metro areas, and iseven less likely to work nationally.

    • MM


      I’m glad you used DC as an example of gun regulations, as it completely destroys your point. DC is on track to record less than 100 murders this year, for the first time since 1963 (gun ban was 1975, high point for murders was 479 in 1991). Despite the ban technically being overturned in 2007, legal gun owners in the city probably number less than 10, so that’s a non-starter. Also, DC is conveniently located across the river from a little state called Virginia, maybe you’ve heard of it, as it has some of the most lax gun laws in the country, essentially providing a never-ending stream of cheap and easy-to-obtain guns into the District.

      Similarly, LA’s murder rate has dropped something like 65% from its high in the early 90s, and Chicago’s murder rate is HALF of what it was in the early 90s. I honestly don’t know what it is with people and their paranoia these days. You’d think that we’re living in alternate 1985 where Biff Tannen has the almanac, but seriously, crime is the lowest it has been in like 40 years. So maybe read some statistics before you run your mouth on the evils of gun control.

    • Amyc

      I don’t get it. You admit prohibition typically doesn’t work, but you’re still for prohibition of a mostly harmless drug*? Ending prohibition of marijuana could actually make money for this country, end some gang violence (by making the drug cost less to buy and not worth the fight), and reduce the number of people sent to prison and jail. If you’re ok with alcohol and cigarettes being legal, then why aren’t you ok with marijuana being legal? Your position seems contradictory.

      *I say mostly harmless, because it’s at least less harmful than alcohol and cigarettes, and actually has some medical benefits

  • Nicole Introvert

    I’m so glad I’m not a teacher. The day someone came to me and told me I MUST be armed, I’d quit immediately. I have made a conscious effort to stay away from guns since I suffer from depression. Even though I think target shooting might be fun, I never want to touch a firearm. We had a case locally where a man committed suicide at a gun range. Also, I am not prepared for the rammifications if I took someone else’s life, even in defence.

  • Anat

    JT, have a look at The Freedom of an Armed Society by Firmin Debrabander. I think makes some good arguments about how guns in the hands of civilians are detrimental to societal cohesion and breed mutual fear among members of society and thus end up having a negative effect on individual freedoms.

  • Rebecca Hensler

    The people who support arming teachers clearly know NOTHING about life in a school in a poverty-ridden region or neighborhood. They haven’t watched adolescents suffering from PTSD as a result of childhoods involving a neverending series of violent deaths of loved ones and moves from family member to family member as parents and guardians are incarcerated, die or succumb to drug addictions. They haven’t considered the percentage of SED (Severely Emotionally Disturbed) students walking the halls and sitting in classrooms. They’s never seen a 4′ 11″ eleven-year-old pick up a desk and throw it out a window. And they certainly haven’t considered how much more comfort and experience some of our students have with firearms than their teachers do.

    Now these students make up a small percentage of even the roughest school. And we (the “union thugs” who can’t be trusted with collective bargaining rights and don’t deserve our meager pensions) do a damned good job of keeping all our students safe and learning. It helps that the vast majority of students will drop the “snitches get stitches” trope in a quick minute to let the adults know if there is even a rumor of a gun in the building. But the last thing we need is 40 extra firearms in our school, within arms reach of adolescents who already expect to be dead or in jail before their 20th birthdays.