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France debates violent content

PARIS

France has experienced its own deranged shooters, with each event bringing up arguments over the possible causes. After a recent incident, local legislators tried to ban violent videogames, so far to no avail. But the news of American violence has added new twists to the ongoing debate.

The Aurora, Colo., movie theater mass killing in July stirred up a flurry of straight news reports in the media, while Gaul’s networks featured plentiful debates and analysis. But all of these increased after the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

News network BFM sent a record six journos and cameramen to Newtown, Conn., although coverage of the tragedy quieted down after the holidays.

Christophe Delay, editor in chief and anchor of the BFM morning edition, says the network devoted major resources because “it’s got multiple facets that makes it so terrifying and compelling: Children were the target, so many were slaughtered in such a horrific manner (… and the case has acquired) a political dimension since Barack Obama vowed to change gun laws.”

The French media, as elsewhere, were quick to note killer Adam Lanza’s penchant for violent videogames, and also cited Hollywood’s output of violent entertainment.

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But there were other views. “Every time there is a shooting, the same easy scapegoat is charged: videogames,” wrote Boris Manenti at French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. “Ever since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the hobby of more than 40% of the population is blamed after each shooting.”

According to Abdel Raouf Dafri, screenwriter of some of Gaul’s most violent contempo TV skeins and movies — notably Olivier Marchal’s crime drama “Braquo,” gangster pic “Public Enemy Number One” and Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet” — “The same accusations have been made against literature and comicbooks: The media always looks for a scapegoat.”

Added Dafri, “The real question we should be asking is: Why do mentally deranged young men like Lanza and James Holmes (the suspect of the Aurora movie theater mass murder) have such easy access to guns, and especially semi-automatic rifles? Why are these people allowed to buy guns online without being subjected to a background check in the first place?”

Yet in March, after Mohamed Merah murdered four people, including three young children in front of a Jewish school in Toulouse after killing a paratrooper and two soldiers in Montauban in southern France, the Gallic media claimed his addiction to first-person-shooter games like Ubisoft’s “Call of Duty” had possibly conditioned him to kill these people.

In the wake of the Toulouse and Montauban shootings, as is the case after every mass murder, the European Parliament pushed for member states to regulate the sale and use of violent vidgames. But little has been done.

In Gaul, where President Obama remains highly popular, most local journos trust he is committed to using the momentum created by Newtown rampage along with a dozen other mass shootings this year to forge a policy for greater gun control and possibly ban assault weapons.

“Now that he has been re-elected, Obama has a real opportunity to counter the powerful gun lobbyists — he has nothing to lose,” said Delay.

Christian Makarian, managing director of weekly news mag L’Express concurred.

“No one but Obama can take action toward stricter gun laws by claiming loud and clear what is no longer tolerable. Even if he is not able to act decisively, Obama can take a strong stance against the right to bear arms, and put in all his weight of (being a) Nobel Peace Prize laureate … in memory of the children of Newtown.”

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