When it comes to addressing the tragic episodes of gun violence across our country, there seems to be two camps. In one camp resides the gun control activists. They want to ban assault weapons and extended ammunition magazines. They want universal backround checks. They want the NRA to grovel just a bit. For them, less guns equals less gun violence.
On the other end are the gun rights enthusiasts. For them, guns are never the problem. Violent media might be the problem. A failing mental health system might be the problem. A lack of guns could even be the problem. But the problem will never, ever be that it’s too easy for bad guys to get powerful weapons designed to kill people quickly and efficiently.
The first group will point to studies saying that violent entertainment is not to blame. The second group will point to other studies saying that violent media has a huge impact. Then both sides will yell over each other until they run out of breath.
In today’s New York Times, Joe Nocera attempts to bridge the gap between these two camps. He wants to acknowledge that our country really could use an “All of the Above” option when it comes to curbing gun violence. But while gun control legislation at least gives us something to debate, there’s no real method of curbing violent entertainment that doesn’t infringe upon First Amendment rights. (Plenty would claim that gun control legislation curbs Second Amendment rights as well.)
People like to point the finger at violent entertainment, but they very rarely have a proposed solution for limiting it’s influence. Most of us believe that military-style video games and action hero movies will be around until the end of time. People just like to suggest that it’s all their fault to pull the conversation away from something they don’t want to talk about. Like guns.
But really, we should be talking about violent media. Not because we need more censors. Not because we’re going to curb Hollywood’s ragey, gun-filled addiction to movies like The Expendables. We should be talking about violent media and parenting.
Parents are the missing link in this discussion. Parents are the ones who can control how much violent entertainment a kid is exposed to. Parents are the ones who can talk about the bloodless, often thoughtless way that people are killed in the movies, and how different that is from reality. Parents are the ones who need to teach children that there are more productive ways to handle anger and aggression than hurting those around us.
Does watching hours of anger and gun fights and car chases and more gun fights and a little hand-to-hand combat effect a child? We know it does. Instinctively, we know this. We can feel it when we watch these types of movies. Does violent entertainment have the ability to turn a normally happy child into a dangerous criminal? Of course not. We know that too.
But we need to be educating our children about violence, just like we educate them about some many other social situations. The sex talk is often thought of as “the talk,” as if it’s the only big social issue that parents need to address. That’s obviously not the case. As parents, it’s our job to teach our children about violence and guns. We need to talk about when they’re appropriate and when they aren’t. Parents are the only ones who can address the influence of violent media. They are a part of the solution to this problem and we need to be educating them about it.