The school shooters over the past twenty years have had a few things in common: they were all males under the age of 25. Adam Lanza, Newtown, Connecticut, was 20, the Columbine killers were 17 and 18, and Nikolas Cruz, of Parkland, Florida is 19. In addition, they also all used automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Further, most of them played violent video games.
Young men under 25 are responsible for a disproportionate amount of America's gun violence. According to data collected by the FBI, nearly 50 percent of all gun homicides are committed by males younger than 25. Brain scans show that the frontal lobes in males don't mature until age 25, and their connections to other parts of the brain continue to improve to at least that age, said Dr. Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health.
"Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have made it possible for scientists to watch the rate at which the PFC (pre-frontal cortex) matures, and have discovered the male brain doesn't fully develop until age 25," Dr. Giedd said.
Consider the lobes at the front of the brain. The nerve circuitry there ties together inputs from other parts of the brain, said Dr. Jay Giedd. This circuitry weighs how much priority to give incoming messages like "Do this now," versus "Wait! What about the consequences?" In short, the frontal lobes are key for making good decisions and controlling impulses.
Federal laws on the appropriate age to buy a gun are inconsistent. You have to be 21 to buy a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. But if you're 18, you can buy the same gun from a seller who doesn't have a license. This has the perverse effect of forcing young people to buy handguns from sellers who -- because they aren't licensed -- don't have to conduct background checks.
In addition, federal law allows licensed gun dealers to sell rifles to people as young as 18. Unlicensed sellers can sell the same gun to anyone regardless of age, even a 14-year-old.
Using brain maturation as a basis for age cutoffs is intelligent public policy. Many car rental companies won't rent to people younger than 25 because actuarial tables show that younger drivers have significantly higher accident rates. We allow 18 year olds to vote, but wait until 21 to allow them to drink. We should pass a law, federal and state, that requires gun and ammunition purchasers to be 25 years of age. Even though females mature at a younger age, equal protection of the law requires that they wait until 25 to buy a gun as well.
Violent Video Games
Many mass killers, including Anders Breivik (Norwegan terrorist), Jared Lee Loughner (who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords), the Columbine shooters and Adam Lanza, the Newtown killer, were active players of violent video games, including "Call of Duty."
A decade after Evan Ramsey sneaked a 12-gauge shotgun into his Alaska high school, where he gunned down a fellow student and the principal and wounded two others, he described how playing video games had warped his sense of reality.
Harris, one of the killers in the Columbine High School shooting, was called a "die-hard gamer who loved the interactive bloodbath called Doom."
Playing violent video games like Doom, Wolfenstein 3D or Mortal Kombat can increase a person's aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior both in laboratory settings and in actual life, according to two studies reported in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology . Furthermore, violent video games may be more harmful than violent television and movies because they are interactive, very engrossing and require the player to identify with the aggressor, according to the researchers.
However, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that violent video games were protected by the First Amendment. Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 564 U.S. 786 (2011).
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