Sunday, December 23, 2012

Kindergarten Killers And The NRA

Here's what the NRA's LaPierre said:
And here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.
Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here's one: it's called Kindergarten Killers. It's been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?

Kindergarten Killers

I decided to check up on this video game.  It's free to play online.  It's very cartoonish - not at all realistic.  Remember that the LaPierre's basic argument was that the only way to stop massacres is to arm the schools.  It's interesting to note what he didn't tell us when he used Kindergarten Killers as an example of vicious, violent video games:
  • the guy with the gun is the school janitor AND 
  • all the kids have guns!

Screen Shot from Kindergarten Killers

Yes, the man who said schools needed to be armed, had problems with this video in which the kids were armed.  Maybe it's because despite the kids with guns, the shooter can still carry out his vile act.

Video games are different from the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.  Not because Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood didn't have violence aimed at scaring little children.  They did.  

But in the video games, instead of being the victims, the players can become powerful and take on all the people who are making their lives difficult.  So, if someone were being bullied at school, I'm sure that Kindergarten Killer would give a kid a sense of power by getting back at his tormentors.

Screenshot from Kindergarten Killers

Do Video Games Cause People To Kill?  

I personally don't think that kids can play violent video games which include graphic acts of violence on the part of the player without it having negative effects on the players.  An LA Times article had an overview of research on the impacts of violent video games:

A number of studies have shown that watching a lot of violence on television or playing violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt produces aggressive tendencies in kids. Rowell Huesmann, a professor of communications and psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that the strength of the evidence is on par with data that say smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer.
Other researchers pooh-pooh such assertions and say that scientific findings have been decidedly mixed — with several studies finding no effects of violent video games on children and teens who play them.
In addition, such critics say, when effects are observed in studies, they have little or no relevance to psychological states that trigger violence in real-life situations.
It goes on to say the research has positive and negative findings, but looks to more longitudinal studies that will look at effects on the same kids over time.

Generalizing from any single study to the whole population of is always suspect.  Finding cause and effect relationships, when there are numerous other and often hard to determine  factors in the environment is tricky.  But if I had to put money down on what researchers will say in twenty years, I'd bet that they'll say something like:

  • While the vast majority of kids who play violent video games may have immediate short term increases in aggressiveness, there is no danger that the games lead them to acts of illegal violence.  However, for some small number of kids with psychological issues, insufficient parent supervision, and/or a variety of other compounding factors, the games can lead to a greater likelihood of committing violent acts. [Don't quote this without the caveat above]
But then, the number of people who commit mass shootings is a tiny fraction of the people who kill people annually with firearms.  As a percentage of the whole American population, it would require so many zeroes after the decimal point that most people wouldn't even know how to say it.  (Over 30,000 people a year are killed by firearms in the United States.)

Also, most of the people who have committed mass murders in the last 30 years, didn't play violent video games as kids, because they weren't around.  

While I personally could live very happily in a world without violent video games,  I still don't think that banning them would significantly reduce the number of mass shootings. 

Antonin Scalia Gave Game Makers First Amendment Rights

Let's see now.  If I recall correctly, Scalia is considered one the most conservative members of the US Supreme Court.  Yet in 2011 he wrote the opinion that rejected the California (that home of Hollywood and many video games) law that restricted children's access to violent video games.  From the LA Times:
“Scalia dispatched all of the major arguments for the law. A technical but vital issue was whether the court must look at the law with "strict scrutiny," the practice in other free-speech cases. Scalia answered yes, meaning that the law had to serve a compelling state interest and be narrowly tailored to meet that purpose. Scalia found no such interest in the protection of children from imaginary violence. He ridiculed studies relied on by the state to show a link between playing video games and aggression in children. Referring to one expert, Scalia said that "he admits that the same effects have been found when children watch cartoons starring Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner."”

Other Issues

NRA vice president LaPierre's statement Friday is an interesting basis for doctoral dissertations in a number of fields from linguistics to criminal justice to media.  That was my realization as I started to review it Friday.  A quick analysis just wasn't in the cards.  But I hope to make a number of smaller posts, like this one, from it.

I would also add on this topic - violent video games - that LaPierre's attack on video games might have had some persuasive power had he:

  1. Not convicted them ("a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people."), but simply raised the legitimate questions that should be raised.
  2. Had not blamed them and a number of others (violent movies, politicians, the media, etc.) yet exonerated the one item without which these mass murders couldn't have happened as horrifically as they have - the guns that were used in them.  They are the single factor that is linked, without any question, to all the mass killings.  And, of course, had he not so emphatically exonerated the NRA. 

[I accidentally hit the publish button before this was finished and then deleted it.  On some blogs the link stayed up.  Sorry if you had trouble finding it.]


  1. The NRA is terrified that people are finally going to show them for what they are: shills for gunmakers. The reason these games exist it that teh weaponry exists in these peoples' homes. The reason people die is because the guns and ammo and kevlar vests are able to be purchaased by anyone, at any time, with no checks, which the NRA fights tooth and nail, or trigger and sight. LaPierre was foaming at the mouth yesterday trying to defend the need for these WMDs. He failed. They should be banned from the Earth. Unlike cartoons, real guns kill real people. That is their ONLY purpose. How many people actually kill an intruder in their homes? How many people stop a mass murder with a concealed handgun?
    How many people, like the victim of LaPierre's son's road rage, prefer NOT to act like we live in the old West? I prefer peace and freedom. I do not want to live in a nation where everyone is armed from childhood upwards. Are these people crazy? Yup.

  2. One more thought. It seems to me that the ginning up of hatred and fear of this President was all a ploy to get MORE guns in peoples' hands and more profits to the gunmakers. And that is sick. We know Lanza's mother was one of those afraid of the government..who made her afraid? Fox News, the NRA, and the GOP. Talk about treason.

  3. Back in the '80's, there was such clamor about listening to Heavy Metal music would lead to violence. Even recently, in a Gallup Poll, 87 percent of Republican voters think that the biggest problem in America today is “the demented bloodlust of teenagers caused entirely by heavy metal music.” And, according to Rick Santorum, heavy metal is the cause of many forms of mental illness as well as lactose intolerance.

  4. Thanks for your comments. LaPierre's statement opens so much to discuss. This was only one tiny bit.

    Sally, the issue of NRA being shills today for the gun (weapons) industry is starting to come out, and some gun and hunting enthusiasts have created a counter group, The American Hunters and Shooters Association. We'll see how that goes.

    akbright,'s urban legend page says your info on Santorum and heavy metal music is an urban legend. So is Megadeath's Dave Moustaine's support of Santorum.

  5. Are Americans as civilized as Aussies? Are we able to rise up and demand effective action to stop the carnage of gun massacres? Will we?

    Here is an article about the effective actions taken in Australia to dramatically reduce gun deaths.

    Half of American homes do not have guns, yet we are at terrible risk from the lethal weapons in our neighbors' homes. Enough! Time for us to speak out.

    Americans shouldn't have to be worried that an irresponsible gun-owning parent's recklessness will result in the slaughter of their young children at school.

    We need real, serious gun control now. FOR REAL.

    The first step is to repeal the second amendment. Make it no more of a constitutional right to own a gun than to own a car. We don't need, and can't live with, the constitutional right to own powerful, lethal weapons of mass death. No more.

    It's a long process to amend the constitution, requiring passage by Congress and then ratification by 3/4th of the states, so let's start now. Let's demand our Congress be as courageous as a kindergarten teacher and stand up to the NRA . Once we remove this anachronistic, poorly written, flawed right from the constitution, we can hope to stop the regular gun massacres we now must live with as a routine occurrence.

    Then, we can follow the lead of countries like UK and Australia and require guns to be stored in extremely secure lockers at gun ranges and hunting clubs and armories. Make licenses to keep guns at home be based on need, with stringent requirements and frequent reviews. Require liability insurance for gun owners, as we require it for car owners.

    Repealing the 2nd amendment won't automatically make all gun ownership illegal, but it will allow us to move forward and create the rational rules we need for the 21st century.

    That's why I created a petition to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which says:

    "Repeal the Second Amendment Now. This anachronistic, poorly worded amendment prevents us from passing real gun control measures that will be effective in stopping the ongoing gun slaughter. It should be no more a constitutional right to own a gun than to own a car."

    Click here to add your name:

    When we get enough signatures at, they will send it out to their membership and we can get the word out to even more people.

    Thank you so much.


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