In the debate surrounding guns and gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December, I have argued repeatedly that all sides must come to the table prepared to negotiate evil that encourages people to kill children. Arguments about the Second Amendment have flared across cultures,
including a spirited discussion at the Leavitt Center’s Pizza & Politics forum on Jan. 16. I have no desire to revisit that issue here.
On the other hand, I also concede that those of us in the First Amendment camp must realize that the freedoms of speech and expression are no license to produce unfettered violent content that numbs the conscience and glorifies the slaughter of innocent victims. That fact is underscored by the revelation that a Texas youth was inspired to murder his mother and sister by watching a violent horror film. Seventeen-year-old Jake Evans of Aledo, Texas, said he had watched Rob Zombie’s remake of “Halloween” three times during the hours leading up to the killings. “While watching it, I was amazed at how at ease the boy was during the murders, and how little remorse he had afterward,” Evans wrote in his confession. “I was thinking to myself it would be the same for me when I kill someone.”
Some of the free-expression hawks among us will argue, “Hey, movies don’t kill people; people kill people,” but I’m a media effects scholar, and I can point to definitive research that shows a high correlation between anti-social behavior and heavy viewing of violent media content.
Sure, I’ll concede the correlation does not equal causation, but I’m convinced that if we’re going to release such violent content to the general public on a regular basis, we’re just asking for scenes like the ones at Sandy Hook and the murders of Jake Evans’ mother and sister to be repeated. At what point do we say, “Enough is enough”?
Let’s discuss that here and Wednesday at Pizza & Politics.
Professor L. Paul Husselbee is an Associate Professor of Communication at Southern Utah University.