National Rifle Assn. spokesman Wayne LaPierre, appearing before the media for the first time since the Connecticut school shootings, suggested that violent movies, videogames and music videos bore some blame by bringing “an ever more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into out homes.”
His main proposal was a federal program to provide armed security at every school, but LaPierre also was scathing about what he called a “race to the bottom” among media conglomerates profiting from violent content.
“Rather than face their own moral failings, the media demonize lawful gun owners,” said LaPierre, at a press conference that was interrupted twice by protesters.
“There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people,” he said.
He cited movies and music videos, but also singled out specific videogame titles, including one, “Kindergarten Killers.”
“Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Natural Born Killers’ that are aired like propaganda loops on ‘Splatterdays’ and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it entertainment.”
The MPAA had no immediate comment, but its chairman, Chris Dodd, on Thursday released a statement saying that “we stand ready to be part of the national conversation.”
The Electronic Software Assn., which represents videogame developers, on Wednesday said that the “search for meaningful solutions must consider the broad range of actual factors that may have contributed to this tragedy.” It noted that “extensive research” had shown “no connection between entertainment and real-life violence.”
Studies that have been done on the impact of violence in movies and videogames and youth have been inconclusive, something that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out in writing a 2011 majority decision that struck down California’s ban on sales of violent videogames to minors.
LiveScience, for instance, reported on a 2010 brain imaging study that suggested that “emotional responses to violence appeared to diminish in teenage brains exposed to a steady stream of violent videos.” The study came from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md,, but the study may not be indicative of what impact it may have on aggressive behavior.
Moreover, some of those advocating gun control have expressed fears that a debate that morphs into one about media violence will distract from a genuine need for a change in firearms laws.
David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama, said via Twitter, “LaPierre is right on culture; fundamentally dishonest in raising it. We need 2 act on all weapons of war; violent culture. Mental health.”
He added, “LaPierre’s rant was truly astonishing. At a moment that demanded reflection, he sprayed rhetorical shots around the room.”