Friday, December 28, 2012

Hold Your Fire

I went to the movies with the family last weekend.  Looking around at the posters advertising current or upcoming movies, I was struck by how so many of them showed the characters looking tough and holding guns.  There’s Django Unchained,  Skyfall, Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, our former governor in The Last Stand, Liam Neeson in Taken 2, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Sly Stallone in Bullet to the Head, and more.  If you are a parent taking your children to see Monsters, Inc. or Wreck-It Ralph or Life of Pi, they are going to see these posters with cool actors striking poses with their guns.  You could also be at home watching a game on television and a commercial could come on advertising a new movie.  Clips of Daniel Craig or Bruce Willis shooting things up appear.  These exciting and inviting images make an impression on your children.  Kids will mimic things they see in movies and television.  My husband and I had to ban Kung Fu Panda when our kids were younger because they tried doing martial arts on each other and used sticks to hit each other and us.  If you have boys, you know what I mean.

There are many violent videogames out there.  Do you know what your child is playing late at night in his room?  How much time is your son spending playing games?  I know, I know, there have been studies…videogames in and of themselves are not a bad thing.  Many a geek relaxes after a long day at work or school by playing games.

There are youngsters who suffer from mental illnesses like depression, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia and OCD.  Many of these children are prescribed medication to help manage these illnesses.  A diagnosis of mental illness doesn’t mean that child is going to be violent.  Some of the medications come with heavy warnings on the label.  Zoloft carries a risk of suicidal thoughts, especially in children.  Prozac is another drug that can induce suicidal thoughts.  Many young people who are prescribed anti-depressants or anti-psychotic medications do well with them and are able to live normal lives.  But a young person taking an anti-psychotic medication or two might start experimenting with alcohol or recreational drugs which could alter the helpful effects of the medication.  What if a patient suddenly quits taking his medication altogether without the knowledge of his parents or doctor?  Quitting some medications cold-turkey can result in relapse of the mental illness, often with worse symptoms and behaviors than the original illness.

 What happens when you have a young person with some sort of mental illness (maybe even an undiagnosed one) and a combination of some of the factors that exacerbates the illness, who sees images of Oscar-winning actors holding weapons and shooting things up as a hero, or spends many hours on his computer killing lots of people in some virtual world?  Can a young man have trouble distinguishing what goes on in a virtual world of a movie or game and the real world?  Does he understand what he’s doing when he packs up massive weapons and heads out to do what he’s going to do?

We’ve had some terrible tragedies recently involving young men with guns.  Innocent people have been killed and numerous families’ lives changed forever.  Some government officials have suggested stricter laws and even a ban on all firearms.  Some think more gun-free zones are the answer.  Others think if more citizens carried concealed weapons it would deter these shootings.  What about having armed guards at schools (like the elite school our recent presidents have enrolled their children in)?  Maybe the teachers and staff could be trained to carry weapons was another suggestion.

Suddenly, all gun owners and gun enthusiasts have become the villains.  A newspaper in New York, The Journal News, just published an article on 44,000 registered gun owners in two counties complete with names and addresses of where they lived.  There’s been quite a backlash against the paper.  Some have complained that now the criminals know which houses to break into - the ones without the guns.

What about Hollywood?  The industry has helped glorify guns and violence.  The actors wielding their assault weapons on the big screen are making millions of dollars looking like badasses to our young people.  Will lawmakers try to ban the filming of violent movies like the ones I saw posters for at the theater?  Will any of the actors come out with public service announcements condemning the real-life use of guns against innocent people? 

Someone commenting on an article I read brought up an interesting point that a few of these mass shootings may have occurred in so-called “gun-free zones”.  That’s something worth looking into.  Guns exist.  Criminals will find access to them ban or no ban.  They already do.
Look, there’s no one simple action that is going to eradicate these terrible killings.  People want immediate action taken to prevent our nation from losing any more innocent men, women and children.  That’s understandable.  We feel helpless, sad, sickened about what’s happened.  However, we need to examine all the factors and variables involved in each situation in order to prevent further tragedies.  Not every young person with access to firearms is going to go out and commit a mass murder-suicide.  Not every child with a mental or emotional illness is going to hurt other people.  We need to discover what these shooters in the 15 years since Columbine had in common, to help identify people who may be at risk of potentially doing something horrendous.

*Update*  I am including this recent video of Hollywood Celebs making a public service announcement condemning gun violence and demanding a plan to end it.  It wasn't the kind of public announcement I was hoping for.  The video creator found clips of the celebrities themselves using big guns in movies or tv.  The creator of this video gets it, even though his language is a little harsh.  Instead of taking any responsibility for making blood and guts and murder look cool, these actors who have made millions off of us, are telling us we need to demand gun control.  How about we demand they stop making these violent movies and television shows.  How about they denounce their participation in violent movies.  Ha, don't think that'll ever happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment