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Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting Renews Concern About Movie, Game Violence

Penelope Poulou

December 20, 2012

The shooting of 20 young children and seven adults has renewed discussions about gun control in the United States.

Many say the availability of guns, however, is not the only factor that could trigger a deadly act.

Though the industry disputes it, some experts say films glorifying violence and video games rewarding death can be equally lethal, especially in the hands of people with mental health issues.

When "The Dark Knight Rises" opened in July, the on-screen carnage served as the backdrop to a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, theater. The shooter, James Holmes, 24, had dyed his hair red to resemble the Batman character, the Joker.

Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58.

Hollywood violence

Production of violent films continued after the massacre.

​​The graphic drama, "Killing Them Softly," about a hired gun with feelings, was released in late November.

The Hollywood premiere this week of Quentin Tarantino’s bloody western, "Django Unchained," was canceled out of respect for those killed in Connecticut. However, the movie will be released.

Criminal defense attorney Rene Sandler said on-screen gunfights can inspire real-life shootings.

“The perpetrator becomes a character, takes on the persona of an aggressive, violent individual or superhero," Sandler say, "and in Aurora, it’s a perfect example of just that.”

Video game carnage

But, even more than films, Sandlers thinks violent video games are at the core of brutal behavior, and believes they should be regulated.

“I have seen clients who have engaged in that interactive video experience where they are killing, where they are using guns, where they are gaining points and winning given the more bodies that they amass," she says. "In this country, we can ban sugary drinks for children because it’s unhealthy. We have done nothing to stop violent video games for children and adults.”

While on-screen violence itself is not dangerous, Sandler says it can be "weaponized" in the hands of people with mental issues.

Mental health issues

Law enforcement authorities in the Connecticut shooting have said very little about the 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza's mental health. But the elementary school attack has raised the issue and many are calling on society to be more vigilant.

A game industry group calls any link between video games and violence a myth.

Following the movie theater massacre in July, a movie industry mogul suggested a summit on violence and film, which has not yet occurred.

Still, an Oscar-nominated movie last year, "We Need to Talk About Kevin," eerily mirrors the Newtown shooting. The upper-class Kevin, 16, goes goes on a killing spree at his high school after murdering his family. The movie raised compelling issues about teen mental health, family breakdown and violence in American society.

 

A look at how the U.S. ranks in comparison to the rest of world when it comes guns and gun violence.

 

The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate in the world.

 

GUN OWNERSHIP PER 100 PEOPLE
1. United States - 89
2. Yemen - 55
3. Switzerland - 46
4. Finland - 45
5. Serbia - 38
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Despite the high number of guns, because of its large population, the U.S. does not have the worst firearms murder rate.
GUN MURDERS PER 100,000 PEOPLE
1. Honduras - 69
2. El Salvador - 40
3. Jamaica - 39
4 Venezuela - 39
5. Guatemala - 35
The United States ranks 28th, with a rate of 3 per 100,000 people
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*The U.S. is one of the leading countries in the number of deaths attributed to guns.
NUMBER OF PEOPLE KILLED BY FIREARMS IN 2010
1. Brazil - 34,678
2. Colombia - 12,539
3. Mexico - 11,309
4. Venezuela - 11,115
5. United States - 9,146
Source: UNODC & Small arms survey of 2010

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