by Joseph P. Tartaro
Medical groups seem to be taking an ever more active role in public policy decisions. The gun control proposals advanced by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are not new.
But now those groups are focusing on the medias possible role in childhood violence, and one of the senators ready to make use of a new report just happens to be a pro-gunner from Kansas.
What follows suggests that some powerful forces are at work on our social problems, and they have the money and credentials to get the media and lawmakers to pay attention. Of course, the fact that many Americans have blamed the entertainment mediamovies, television, video games and modern musichas been mostly ignored by the people who make money selling those products.
Whether anyone will start accusing them of profiting from the misery they have created, as they have done with the gun industry, remains to be seen. One wonders where some of the state attorney generals are in this debate, and Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo. Will they begin filing suits against the people who give so generously to support the political campaigns of their allies?
Marking what one lawmaker called a turning point in the battle against entertainment violence, four national health associations are directly linking violence in television, music, video games and movies to increasing violence among children, according to Associated Press.
Its effects are measurable and long-lasting, the four groups say in a statement. Moreover, prolonged viewing of media violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life.
The joint statement by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry was scheduled to be the centerpiece of a public health summit on entertainment violence on July 26, as this issue of Gun Week went to press.
The conclusion of the public health community, based on over 30 years of research, is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in aggressive attitudes, values and behaviors, particularly in children, the organizations statement says.
Advocating a code of conduct for the entire entertainment industry, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) compared the statement to the medical community declaring that cigarettes can cause cancer.
I think this is an important turning point, said Brownback. Among the professional community, theres no longer any doubt about this. For the first time, you have the four major medical and psychiatric associations coming together and stating flatly that violence in entertainment has a direct effect on violence in our children.
The Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Broadcasters refused to comment on the medical associations statement before its full text was released. The four health professional groups left no doubt about their feelings in the statement:
Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume that acts of violence are acceptable behavior, it said.
Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization toward violence in real life. It can decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.
Viewing violence may lead to real life violence. Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.
Brownback said he hopes the statement will convince lawmakers that something has to be done about media violence. And, he said, I hope parents will look at this and say that theyre going to have to police their childrens entertainment violence content the same way they police what their children eat and other health issues.
But Brownback didnt spell out exactly how Congress could regulate what the entertainment media markets. There is a big debate that also involves the First Amendment, just as the medical organizations recommendations impinge on the Second.
One entertainment violence monitoring group, The Lion & Lamb Project in nearby Bethesda, MD, cheered the statement. Right now, the message were sending children in the media is that violence is OK ... that its part of life and sometimes its even funny, executive director Daphne White said. Were even using violence for humor now.
Brownback said television now has V-chips and a rating system to help parents take control of what their children watch. We think more parents need to control their remote control, he said.
Journalists and Guns
I never cease to be amazed by how little many reporters really know about guns and how quick they are to use anti-gun clichés.
A report about Johnson County, IN, sheriffs deputies getting Ruger Mini-14s to replace their shotguns that appeared in The Indianapolis Star on July 25 is a case in point.
Every road-patrol deputy in Johnson County now is toting a high-powered rifle, although the nations top law enforcement agency and nearly all Indiana police departments still use shotguns as preferred weapons, the story began.
Johnson County Sheriff J.D. Richards replaced the 12-gauge Remington shotguns in patrol cars with Ruger Mini-14 semi-automatic rifles that are capable of killing a person from a mileor moreaway.
To me that sounds like the usual journalistic drivel designed to frighten readers.
The .223 cartridge fired from a Mini-14 might be deadly out to a mile, if it strikes a living object. But the likelihood that it would ever be used that way is so remote as to be absurd. And a lot of folks familiar with the .30-06 or .308, if not larger cartridges, would have a hard time really worrying about the .223 being high powered.
But the writer of this article goes on to give more techno-babble to get the point across.
Weapons experts are divided on whether the switch is a good move. Some contend the rifles are too powerfultheir bullets travel about 2,900 feet a secondto be used except in special circumstances, they continue, also adding, but some officers on the street are reluctant to give up their shotguns for the long-range rifles. They point out that shotguns dont have to be precisely aimed; the rifles do. The weapons are carried by police officers in addition to their handguns.
Theres more, of course, but youve probably seen similar samples in the past.
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