Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Children, guns and video games

(This post has been updated since first posted.)

This is not what I had planned for my next post but this story is so tragic and awful that I decided to write about how an 8 year old boy accessed a gun and shot and killed his elderly care giver. There are so many things wrong with this story that I hardly know where to begin. From the article:
Louisiana law enforcement officials say an 8-year-old boy intentionally shot and killed his elderly caregiver Thursday evening after playing the video game "Grand Theft Auto."
According to WAFB-TV, the shooting, which the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office has called a homicide, took place in a mobile home park near Slaughter, La. The woman, who was pronounced dead at the scene, was reportedly found with a gunshot wound to the head. It is believed that the 8-year-old shot her while she was in the living room watching television.
"Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time, investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III "Grand Theft Auto IV", a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred," a statement issued by the Sheriff's Office said.
As Fox News notes, "Grand Theft Auto" is rated "M" for mature audiences and recommended for teens and adults aged 17 and older.
The woman, who has been identified as Marie Smothers, has been described as the "current caregiver" of the boy. It is, however, still unclear what her relationship was with the child. There is also conflicting information as to Smothers' age, with some news outlets identifying her as an 87-year-old woman and others indicating that she was 90.
The boy, whose identity has not been made known, has reportedly been released into the custody of his parents. According to the Advocate, the boy will likely not be charged with the crime because of his age, as dictated by Louisiana law.
Though the 8-year-old initially told investigators that the shooting was an accident, police say they believe the boy intentionally shot Smothers. But Law enforcement officials also said the child is believed to have had a "normal, loving, relationship" with the victim.
The gun used in the shooting is thought to have belonged to Smothers, according to the Advocate.
Experts have long debated -- and are still divided on -- the matter of whether or not violent video games, TV shows and movies trigger aggressive behavior in young people.
In April, a study published in the journal Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice claimed to show a link between violent video games and youth violence. That same month, however, an associate professor at Villanova University wrote that research had not found a "clear link between playing violent video games and real world violence."
Why did this elderly woman have a gun out and loaded readily accessible to an 8 year old in her care?

Why was the boy playing "Grand Theft Auto", a game not at all suitable for 8 year olds?

Without the gun, this would not have happened.

It wasn't the video game, though letting this boy play the game was irresponsible at the least. It was the gun.

There is no conclusive evidence that video games cause children ( or adults for that matter) to act out the pretend violence with real violence.

There is evidence that loaded guns accessible and in the hands of young children can lead to tragic shootings. Just check out Kid Shootings if you don't believe me. There are way too many tragic incidents listed on this blog and the ones there are not all. It's too hard to keep up with the number of kids injured and dead from gun fire or kids shooting other kids or adults.

Is this the kind of country we want or need to keep our children and our communities safe and free from the gun violence that is so devastating to so many people?

There is no logical explanation for any of this. There are no excuses from the gun rights extremists. The corporate gun lobby and its' minions can't keep hiding these awful gun incidents and continue with their agenda that more people need guns in their homes and in public for self defense. Their arguments are specious, nonsensical and cynical. Follow the money. It's sick and senseless.

Where is common sense?


  1. There might not be "conclusive" evidence between kids, video games and guns, but I get the sense that even you know what's going on in these games - they're more violent than a Tarantino flick.

    I have a son now and for me, the decision is kind of easy - not that Im Pollyanna about violence, but I don't think its that wonderful an idea to let kids play games like this - again, I know scientific studies aren't out there (and Im thinking theres an ethical reason behind why), but I can't see any good reason to let a kid play a game where he or she is getting points for killing someone, whether computer generated or on Xbox Live, where the opponents are other players.

    Think of it this way - when I played hockey, I'd get a rush every time I blocked a shot, checked someone rushing my net and or won a game. I was an active kid, played hockey as if it was my religion and my whole world revolved around winning the game. I had the jerseys, spoke hockey, breathed it, slept it to the point of ....obsession? A healthy obsession, but one that athletic kids still share today.

    Now....picture a kid who is lonely, has no friends, parents who don't invest time in him (and Im really curious to know this kid's situation) is bullied at school, etc. He or she escapes into an online fantasy world where their serotonin hits (which is what I felt when I played hockey) are derived by "killing" opponents.

    Scary, huh? Perhaps that's why there is no research on the topic because to do so evokes images of Dr. Mengele. By no means am I saying the games should be banned, Im a massive proponent of the first amendment and see no social net harm in the gaming, but let's face it, these games are not for kids nor should they be played by kids.

    I don't think that I as a gun owner bear responsibility here - I think this kids' questionable circumstances do.

    1. There's no research on the subject because the NRA has blocked attempts at the research. Max, I don't buy your hockey analogy at all. It's just not applicable. My son played high school hockey at the top level and was on the Minnesota state championship team when he was a senior. But he also had things in perspective. He was a straight A student and had his head on straight about his priorities. To call it an obsession says a lot about you actually.

  2. But, according to Wayne, "the only way to stop a "bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Funny, I can't seem to ID which is the "bad guy" here.....

    And why have a gun in the first place, while babysitting?? Guns and kids don't mix. As usual, the gun was far more likely to be used against her than to be used to protect her. There are so many lessons in this case, all of which will be promptly swatted away by the "molon labe" crowd.

  3. Baldr,

    There really aren't many lessons here. Should the child have been playing an obviously violent video game? Likely not, but that's the parents' call. Studies about video games aren't really necessary. But it is always the responsibility of the adult to secure a firearm properly. Safety classes, while a good thing for those times when a child might come across an unsecured firearm, doesn't absolve the adult of that responsibility.

    1. Wow- no lessons to be learned? That's not true, Mark. If we all, as a society, can't learn something from this endless stream of kids accessing guns and killing themselves or other people, then we might as well give up on everything. Of course there are lessons to be learned. It is the responsibility of the adult. These things didn't used to happen. Why? Because we now have 300 million guns in circulation. There are too many people who shouldn't have them, no thanks to the corporate gun lobby who encourages everyone to get a gun out of fear and paranoia. So what is your suggestion for making adults responsible? We don't allow kids to drive at 8 or smoke at 8 or many other things. But parents take their kids to teach them to shoot at 8 and think it's just fine. We could get to work on making guns safer from kids by doing more research and development on better gun locks or systems to let only the owner's handprints to shoot the gun. Why not? That is the responsible thing to do. We can't have collateral damage just because some in the minority don't like the solutions to a public health and safety problem.