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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Young Voices: Put the blame where it belongs

Friday, January 11, 2013

There has been an increase in gun crimes recently, including the tragedy at an elementary school in Connecticut that has so shocked the entire country.

Millions everywhere try to speculate what could compel someone to do such acts. All kinds of theories are floating around. As an intern at a news organization, I first considered the one that affects my potential career the most immediately.

Recently some have suggested that news coverage of such shooting tragedies may actually be to blame for more such incidents.

When tragedy strikes, however, we look to news crews for the most immediate and in-depth coverage. We want to know what happened and why it happened. It doesn't matter how far we may be from Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado - we want to know.

As these kind of events take place, news crews flock to the scenes to interview everyone they can get their hands on. They aim to have the best information before anyone else. They are doing their jobs. They also begin to do background research on whoever is responsible, using all the resources they can find. Everything about these peoples' lives are now plastered across the news, in a search for answers to why they have chosen to do such horrible things.

Some believe that mass murderers are given too much coverage and that they are turned into their own version of a celebrity.

Is this what fuels violent crimes - the desire for star status? The knowledge that everyone will know your name and you immediately become the most hated human being in the country?

Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame but I also like to think that we as level-headed human beings have our own set of morals that says what is wrong and what is right. I fail to see where a desire for media coverage could turn a person into a mass killer were they not already seeking to do vast, inexplicable harm to others.

Violence in entertainment isn't a new thing. The classic milestone movie "The Great Train Robbery" featured guns, explosions and death - over 100 years ago. Cartoons, even those well before my time, often featured guns, knives, explosions and characters dying and finding themselves in Hell. Yet children grew up with no desire to become serial killers.

If it's not the news media's fault, what is to blame?

A similar suspicion is that violent movies and video games are to blame for violent criminal acts in out sociery.

True enough, movies are constantly theming themselves around violence and painting it as "suspense" or "adventure." Numerous games sold everywhere place us inside the bodies of killers and make the goal of the game to murder and wreak as much havoc as possible.

Tales of violence have been around since the beginning and the technology today leaves no bloody detail left to imagination. There is no clearer way to imagine yourself as a serial killer than through images inspired from movies, video games and other forms of entertainment.

When people seek out films and games, it is supposedly with the knowledge that they cannot themselves do the extreme things that appear on their screens. Movies and games are escapism, a window into a world we do not live in, a form of entertainment and part of our chosen lifestyle.

If games people play defined their personalities, my mother, a fan of blackjack on her iPad, would be bound to become a card counter in Vegas.

We, as psychologically sound people, cannot do these violent acts that are featured in some movies and games and have no desire to - and we know if we were to ever emulate these characters even slightly, we would face extreme consequences.

In a recent NPR interview about the recent release of his newest movie "Django Unchained," veteran director Quentin Tarantino was asked if he was still able to watch violent movies after the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.

He answered that he might be able to because "they have nothing to do with each other." Tarantino went on to say that comparing the tragedy to a movie was an insult to the victims.

When I find myself in the theater to see the most recent gore-filled film, I look around me and see a variety of characters within the audience. I believe they represent the different personalties that choose to watch these types of movies.

There isn't a clear cut stereotype of someone who enjoys violent entertainment, and in fact, I believe the lines are blurring more and more over time.

There is a clear type of person who commits violent gun crimes. Typically, they are mentally unhealthy and have access to weapons.

I can confidently say that there are a few people in my life that I would not trust with a gun. I have no doubt that everyone knows at least one person they would not want to see with a loaded weapon in their hand. What happened to the days of Andy Griffith and Barney Fife where those who should not be trusted to make wise decisions had to keep their bullets in a separate pocket?

The Obama Administration has vowed to produce a comprehensive plan to address gun violence. They will take into account the film and video industries, as well as mental health and gun control. I understand that better control of guns will not entirely wipe out violence, but something has to change. I would suggest a beginning would be more attention to mental health care, and more extensive background checks for those with access to weapons.

If the movies have taught us anything, it is that crazy people cannot be trusted with guns.

* Miranda Klingenberg is a senior at Buena Vista University, interning this interim with the Pilot-Tribune news department.