NRA chief right about violence, but wrong about link to images
his supporters concede that Wayne LaPierre is not the most sympathetic of characters. But the leader of the NRA was at least half-right on Dec. 21, and as what you might call a target of his derision, I think it’s pretty generous of me to say that.
Emerging from the hiding that since the Sandy Hook school massacre has shielded the NRA from certain criticism, LaPierre read a statement that clearly sought to shift the national conversation from gun control to, well, just about anything else. Casting about for a culprit, he settled upon — surprise! — the media.
LaPierre called us “silent enablers, if not complicit coconspirators” of companies that sell Americans violent movies, music videos and games. To stop mass murders, LaPierre suggests, we need to not only put armed police in every American school, but also do something (unspecified) to stop people from seeing violence on screens.
Here’s where LaPierre is right: Violence is disgustingly ubiquitous in what Americans watch on all sorts of screens. Through movies, TV shows, music videos and video games, he said, a child growing up in America witnesses 16,000 murders and 200,000 acts of violence by the time he or she reaches age 18.
What LaPierre clearly wants you to conclude is that such violent images lead to homicide, and so that’s where people horrified by the Connecticut killings should turn their attention.
In his statement he made no definitive link between what people see on screens and the crimes they subsequently commit. That’s because there’s isn’t one. Scientific research over two decades has found nothing to tie exposure to violent images with commission of violent crime.
But research has found plenty of other reasons to take a stand against violent images. Violent video games, researchers tell us, teach youngsters that violence is an appropriate strategy for resolving conflict. They cause people to associate pleasure with causing pain in others. The violent images desensitize viewers and players to reallife violence. They increase aggressive arousal.
You can’t say violent images are creating a generation of killers. But you can say that we have turned unspeakable violence into entertainment, and you can join Wayne LaPierre in decrying it.
In raising that issue in the context of the murders of the children of Sandy Hook, however, LaPierre is nothing short of devious, for he is attempting to divert attention from what scientific research has established.
Like this: States with stricter gun laws tend to have fewer gun-related homicides. And where there are more guns, there is more homicide, both in the U.S. and in other highincome countries.
In the gym where I work out, there are many screens — showing TV newscasts, music videos or a continual loop of action movies where people are shot, blown up, run over and beaten. Just after the Sandy Hook massacre, a woman I know was so disturbed by the twin images on the gym screens — the newscast showing the sad scenes from Connecticut, the movie showing people being obliterated — that she asked that a less violent movie be played. A few days later, when she returned, she was thrilled to note that the movie being shown wasn’t a violent one.
Might a steady diet of “It’s A Wonderful Life” instead of “Die Hard” make us a better people? Science doesn’t support that notion. But as a parent I’m pretty sure I’d rather raise a kid on the morality displayed by Jimmy Stewart’s character than Bruce Willis’. For that to happen, you don’t need to legislate restrictions on movies. You need to speak up.
“Never doubt,” the anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote, “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
When Gov. Rick Perry made Steve McCraw the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety in 2009, only a dozen DPS employees earned $100,000 a year or more at the agency; now there are 73, reflecting an enormous growth in DPS management positions and pay. Meanwhile, the more than 3,500 officers at the largest statewide law enforcement agency have seen little increase in their base pay.
John Z. Cavazos: And what about teachers?
Yvonne Cortez Flores: TX DPS are overpaid then.
John Z. Cavazos: I should have been a cop instead of teaching. This country is all about money, isn’t it?
Lacy A. Mortenson: To