A short time after a teacher was shot and killed by a 14 year old at a middle school dance in nearby Edinboro, Pennsylvania, a sleepy, little, college town; I had the opportunity to interview Lt. Col. Dave Grossman about the original edition of his book with co-author Gloria Degaetano, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill. In revised and updated edition of the book, the authors continue to make the case that the exposure our kids get to violence in the form of movies, TV and video games has desensitized them to violence and conditioned them to be more violent.
15 years after the that original edition of the book, not much has really changed; there continues to be a steady stream of violent acts committed by kids on an all to regular basis and there continues to be a sharp divide between those who have their beliefs confirmed by the book and those who disagree with the conclusion. One thing that has changed is that there has been a steady ratcheting up of the level of violent content and the access to this violent content has been multiplied by the advent of tablets and other smart devices that have become a part of our everyday life.
While I continue to believe that violent video games, movies and TV does not create killers, I think it’s foolish to believe that there is not at least a contributing factor to these violent acts that can be traced back to the video violence. When you track back through both the infamous instances of violence; Sandy Hook and Columbine and even the cases that didn’t stir national headlines, has the authors have here, there are a striking number of cases where violent video games and a high level of not only activity, but a proficiency at the games are part and parcel of the shooters lives.
Adam Lanza, who gunned down 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary, was an aficionado of the Combat Arms, shooting game with 83,496 kills to his credit including 22,725 head shots. Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were regular players of the early shooter classic, Doom. Did the games make them killers? I have my doubts, but do believe that the repetition of playing the games made them more efficient killing machines when the succumbed to their twisted mental view of the world. While I confess to not knowing the statistics on the more recent cases of violence involving kids; during what I call the Columbine era of school yard violence, the shooters involved 9 of the 13 high profile cases were confirmed to be prescribed psychotropic drugs like Luvox or Ritalin for behavioral issues. The other four shooters may have also been some prescription meds, but those involved in any treatment of the four, never disclosed if that was the case. So like violent video games, TV or movies, these medications could be a contributing factor.
Just as I did back in 1999, I still believe that Grossman and Degaetano have put together a compelling case that video violence has caused possibly irreparable damage to our kids and elevated the potential for sick, twisted, minds to continue to cause great damage to our society.