We would have much less to fear from the availability of guns, if we would stop glamorizing their use in popular culture.
NEW YORK (April 19, 2007) – Morality in Media President Robert Peters had the following comments in response to the many news stories pointing a finger at the availability of guns as the underlying cause of the Virginia Tech and similar senseless shootings:
“Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s in North Central Illinois I often felt left out when friends went hunting for rabbits, squirrels, pheasants, deer and more.
“My dad never took us hunting, even though his father had hunted and even though we had a rifle in the home that he taught us how to use when I was in grade school. After my grandfather passed away when I was in college, we also had a shotgun and handgun in the home.
“Fist fighting among kids was common, but never once did any of us (or our parents) use a gun to shoot someone else. To my knowledge, the community I grew up in was not atypical.
“Not surprising, my own growing up experience makes me wary of those that point a finger at the availability of guns as the underlying cause of the dramatic increase in gun-related murders.
“The depiction of guns back then in films and TV also had an impact on us. I still have a picture of my older brother and I with our cowboy six guns and holsters; and I still have fond memories of playing war in the woods with our toy rifles and my favorite gun, a plastic carbine.
“But I think I am on safe ground in saying that we didn’t grow up fantasizing about shooting other human beings in real life just for the sake of shooting them or for exacting revenge.
“How then do we explain why so many young people today use guns unlawfully?
“One obvious part of the explanation is the decline of religion and, along with that, the decline of morality. There is nothing more basic to morality than, ‘You shall not kill.’
“I think another part of the explanation was the abandonment in the 1960s of the Hays Code that governed the film industry for three decades. Among the Code provisions was one that regulated the depiction of murder. Murder was to be presented in a way that would not inspire imitation. Brutal killings were not to be presented in detail. Revenge was not to be justified.
“Broadcast television helped further desensitize youth to criminal violence; and the advent of cable TV and home videos brought the unedited, amoral deadly violence of Hollywood directly into home. Hardcore rap lyrics also extol criminal violence, including use of guns.
“And today, video games provide youth with on-hands instruction in how to kill.
“Without question, the increased availability of weapons designed to take human life has contributed to the increase in mayhem, but typically supply follows demand, and what has helped create the demand for such weapons is a popular culture that glamorizes their use.
“All this is not to say that society shouldn’t restrict the sale of guns and perhaps prohibit the sale of some guns altogether. Even assuming that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of citizens to keep weapons (as I believe it does), reasonable regulation should still be permissible.
“It is to say that we would have much less to fear from the availability of guns, if we would stop glamorizing their use in popular culture. On the latter point, I recall seeing a statistic that less than 5% of New York City police officers ever fire their guns. You’d never know that from popular culture depictions of life as a major city law enforcement officer.”
Based in New York City, Morality in Media works to promote standards of decency in media.