Our Predator Problem

Authors Note:  this column was written for The Nugget Newspaper, in Sisters, Oregon.  For a more thorough discussion of the topic, please see the 2 part series First Person Shooter, at RunningIronReport.com.

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The common denominator in school killings isn’t what you think it is. It isn’t guns, and it isn’t mental illness. The only common denominator in mass school killings is long-term, dissasociative exposure to violent media.

Whether its violence in films, violent lyrics, violent television shows, violent novels, violence depicted across social media, or the endless flood of violent imagery in first-person shooter video games, those countless hours steeped in images of interpersonal violence are damaging the minds of our nation’s children.

That is particularly true in violent video games, which encourage a child to kill using the same methods employed by the US military to increase lethality on the battlefield.

The military accomplishes this by the intensive and repetitive use of reactive targets, which reward the trainee with little shots of dopamine – nature’s biochemical reward — for success.

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A School Shooter Video Game

So do violent video games.

Dave Grossman, who is among the nation’s foremost experts on school shootings, has written extensively about the role of media violence in creating child predators. He argues effectively that school shooters are only doing what they have trained to do, hour after hour.

“When children play violent video games, they’re drilling, drilling, drilling–not two times a year—(but) every night, to kill every living creature in front of (them), until (they) run out of targets or (they) run out of bullets….So, when these kids start shooting–we’re reasonably confident that in Pearl, Mississippi, and in Paducah, Kentucky, and in Jonesboro, Arkansas, these juvenile, adolescent killers set out to shoot just one person: usually their girlfriend…But, then, they kept on going! And, they gunned down every living creature in front of them, until they ran out of targets or ran out of bullets!”

The natural proclivities of military trainees against killing human beings are, at least theoretically, already fully formed in the mid-brain and must be overcome by repetitive drilling.

And, most importantly, professional warriors are taught that killing innocents is antithetical to their role, counterproductive to the mission and the commander’s intent, and punishable by imprisonment or even death. They are also taught how to turn the safety back to the ON position.

Which is not what is happening in the minds of children steeped in the disassociative violence of first person shooter video games or other media.

As a matter of science, Grossman argues, constant exposure to violent media and violent video games is short-circuiting the crucial functions of the unformed mid-brain in our children, which serves to, among other things, filter violent impulse.

Not every child who plays video games will become a killer. But every school shooter has played violent video games.

But we don’t talk about that much. We don’t mention that 97% of American adolescents, 12-17, play video games, or that the American Psychological Association concluded, over a decade ago, that “the evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.”

In other words, they create sociopaths.

Tuscon shooting rampage suspect Jared Lee Loughner ruled not mentally competent to stand trial

Instead, we insist on having the wrong conversation, and then compound that problem – in an embarrassing abdication of adult responsibility – by ushering traumatized children in front of television news cameras in exploitive attempts to have them set the tone and direction of what is already the wrong conversation.

The questions we should be asking each other aren’t about firearms, which millions of Americans use and enjoy without ever killing anyone or anything, it’s what’s going on in our culture that is creating so many dangerous predators in the first place.

And despite the now familiar, and well-meaning, refrains for stricter gun control after every active killer event, it remains unclear how any gun ban, magazine restriction, bullet-button, confiscation scenario, or buy-back program will negate the sudden appearance of a bloodthirsty predator in a defenseless henhouse.

And as a matter of historical fact, everything from jet-airplanes to poison punch has been used more than once in acts of mass killing.

Because preying on the weak is what predators do.

We are not alone with this problem in the world, if that’s at all comforting, and despite the best efforts of gun-banners and other fantasists — who insist on the magic-think hallucination that gun bans will stuff the predator genie back into the bottle — the worldwide evidence clearly says otherwise.

A study by the University of Melbourne concluded that despite often being touted as a responsible act of prevention following a mass shooting, the Australian gun buyback had no discernable effect on gun homicides in Australia.

Violent crime across Europe – where Norway holds the world record for a mass-shooting event, and Germany held the world record for students killed in a school-shooting until last week – has spiked over the last fifteen years. In Russia, where private gun ownership is prohibited, the murder rate is four times that of the United States.

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Grossman writes: “In just 15 years, according to Interpol data, per-capita violent crime went up almost fivefold in Norway and Greece; nearly fourfold in Australia and New Zealand. There was a clean tripling in per-capita violent crime, in these 15 years, in Sweden. And per-capita violent crime approximately doubled in seven other European nations

The question you need to keep asking yourself,” Grossman suggests, “is what is the new variable, what is the new ingredient? And the new ingredient is that we are creating killers, we are creating sociopaths (by way of violent media).”

Gun bans aren’t going to stop the mass-production of predators in our country. Prohibition never works. Not for alcohol, and not for drugs, which kill more Americans every year than guns by a wide margin. It doesn’t work because prohibition of a thing doesn’t treat the underlying issues that lead to abuse or misuse of the prohibited thing.

We’ve always had guns. What we haven’t always had is a proliferation of lethal sociopaths, and until the parents of America stop allowing their children to train in synthetic violence academies, where they eventually graduate and become tomorrow’s vicious predators, negotiating away any means of effective self-defense is both delusional and foolish.

  1. Just wanted to say that you have written another excellent piece.Gets to the root of the problem as opposed to the left, who want to place all the blame on guns and the NRA.
    Pima County, AZ had a Sheriff when Gabby Gifford was shot who was the same mind set as Sheriff Israel in Broward County, FL.

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    1. Not surprising. I’ve seen some truly obsequious behavior in Sheriff’s, particularly when running for election.

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    2. One of the problems this country has is people like you, who treat Liberals as only one person, and have no idea how they really think, feel, and want. There are millions of us and we don’t’ all think alike except in your mind. That in itself is dangerous, since you think we are the bad people, this kind of thinking never leads to any solution of any problem, in fact it makes the problem worse. So your comment can’t be taken seriously because of you hatred of Liberals. Talking about us hatefully can lead to the same violence as video games might cause. The Liberals have been trying to study the use of guns, but to no avail because nobody wants to actually find out the truth through study and it’s the same story on the study of Pot, because, if we find out some truths we might not like it.

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      1. Dear Angry Reader:

        I’m afraid I didn’t say anything at all about “Liberals,” so on balance your comment appears unhinged, unpremised, exceedingly self-conscious and fairly droll. What you’ve done here is lower the level of discussion because you have somehow been “triggered” by your own fairly fantastical assumptions. It’s also interesting that you move from the actual piece, whose conclusions you are free to disagree with, into a kind of generalized nonsense about what the author thinks of millions of people–for which you have no basis whatsoever. Finally, you migrate into a discussion about marijuana, which also appears nowhere in the post, and is a topic for which you have absolutely zero way of discerning the author’s opinions. Not good enough. You will have to be much better, and do a lot more thinking before you are ready for prime time. But thanks for reading.

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  2. Furthermore, Semi-automatic rifles aren’t new. They’ve been with us since at least WWII, and one might argue that the M1 Garand with it’s 30-06 round, or the M1 Carbine in .30 cal, were more lethal than today’s AR15. So, what’s changed? Look to the culture as this article does. Insightful.

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    1. Until relatively recently it was possible to mail-order both of the rifles you mention. Anyone could just send away for one. Grossman points this out too. We make a critical, generational, error if we agree to surrender any civil liberty to the emotional and unreasoned, particularly as the culture they embrace keeps pumping out predators.

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  3. Outstanding read Craig. Spot on as usual. Thank you.

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  4. Completely agree with your reasons. I believe the spike in violance in Europe is in large part due to the huge increase in refugees and illegal immagrants. There is no assimilation anymore by these people coming to Europe or into the US. You have on average 15,000 deaths by handguns in the US each year and extremely few by rifles so a ban a one type of rifle is absurd. I wonder how powerful the video game lobby is in Washington, Wonder how much $$ they give out to buy politicians compared to the NRA.

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    1. That’s a terrific question. These violence franchises stretch across various industries so there is a collective lobbying power that I’m certain is immense, with long tentacles into Washington.

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