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Marketing Violence

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Message Phyllis Reed

LaPierre condemns violent video games while gun makers market their guns through the video makers


                            Phyllis Reed

If more Americans have sensed that Wayne LaPierre is standing on shaky ground, verification is close at hand: he's called for more guns for school personnel and castigated violent video games and media while ignoring the tight marketing relationship between the video game industry and the gun makers.   Ironic that his views on violent video games and movies are supported by a study in the journal, Pediatrics.  It reminds me of a phrase used by sociologist, Peter L. Berger : "logic-tight compartments," where the mind keeps sentiment separate from facts.

The push to have an intelligent discussion since the tragedy in Newtown is obviously encountering a number of barriers, and understanding what they are and why they exist may be key to achieving that goal.  One of them became obvious as sympathy poured in from all over our nation and the world, from both gun owners and those who don't.  We were shaken: by the numbers, the ages and the idyllic nature of where it happened.  It's as if the daily gun violence in Baltimore, Camden, Chicago's South Side, Detroit, Newark, North Philadelphia, St. Louis and all too many other cities is behind a scrim and just accepted as part of the daily news.  That acceptance, or indifference, runs parallel to the general reaction after all of our mass shootings, whether at Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech or elsewhere.  Meanwhile, we continue to ignore the prevalence of and easy access to guns and military rifles in America.   Hidden in homes across America is the rush that comes from playing violent video games that has earned us the moniker of "Gun Crazy," the New York Times title for its March 1st, 2008 editorial after the Valentine's Day massacre at Northern Illinois University.  

Some responsible gun owners, interested only in hunting and target practice, can be blind to their own child's potential for tragedy when introduced to guns in the context of mental health problems.  Witness the example of Nancy Lanza, already overwhelmed with how to handle Adam and yet feeling no inhibition about taking him to gun practice.  The parents of the boys who massacred students and teachers at Columbine were aware of their son's attitudes and absorption with violent video games, but didn't project how the availability of guns in their homes could turn a virtual pastime into a horrible reality.

The blindness is rooted in our nation's pervasive lack of understanding of mental illness, the absence of public education about the nature of schizophrenia and the resulting gap in mental health facilities and qualified mental health care.  Now the headline screams that the woman who pushed a commuter to his death off the subway platform had a long history with the city's police and mental health systems.  We underfund the agencies that these patients so badly need, and somebody's father, mother, child or entire classroom dies.

Where Americans can agree, whether gun owners or not, is that Newtown calls us to

ensure a safer world.  We can no longer tolerate fearful legislators in the face of the NRA's official stance that blocks any conversation about what legislation we need to halt the trend towards "fortress America" or the Wild, Wild West.  Fear does build walls, and America is too precious to succumb to fear.  

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Freelance writer, activist, composer, retired from nonprofit journalism educational foundation.
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