In the national soul-searching following yet another mass shooting — the latest in a bloody string claiming hundreds of killed and wounded innocent victims since Columbine in 1999 — the shouts for stricter gun control started even before the first funerals were held in Newtown, Conn.
Not surprisingly, those calls have come from the political left, which has fought hard for limiting guns over the years. Democratic Party leaders have been the most vocal. President Obama asked Cabinet members for proposals to reduce gun violence. New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel put forth their own demands, and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to reintroduce the expired “assault weapons” ban in Congress.
Given the fact that an obviously deranged 20-year-old man killed his mother at home and then promptly fatally shot six women and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School with two pistols and a military-style assault rifle, their actions to rein in guns seem logical at first glance.
Scratch just one layer below the surface, however, and it seems they’re missing the underlying problem — and that’s Hollywood.
Since the Second Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1791, giving Americans the right to bear arms, this has been a country where getting a gun is not very difficult.
Granted, there were no machine guns back then, but the Thompson submachine gun (aka the “Tommy Gun”) made famous by Al Capone in the Prohibition era was invented in 1919 and held up to 100 rounds.
Thus, automatic weapons have been readily available to the public for almost a century, yet we didn’t see mass shootings in schools, shopping centers and movie theaters until recently. With one exception in 1966, when Charles Whitman fatally shot nearly 50 people from the University of Texas Clock Tower, we didn’t really see this type of mass shooting spree again until Columbine.
So what changed?
Since a small percentage of the population has always been mentally ill, and a larger percentage has always been bullied, it defies logic to think statistically any more people are deranged or bullied now than were in decades past.
In my opinion, the answer is found in our vastly changed culture, and what now passes for normal. All signs point to Hollywood — ironically, some of the same people screaming for stricter gun control.
The bloodbath films that now pass for “action adventures” and “thrillers” have desensitized society to the value of life. Even worse, extraordinarily violent video games, where the body count determines the victor, have made killing with firearms seem, in a sense, well — somewhat routine.
As a child in the 1970s playing pinball machines, I remember being delighted when an actual video game came out — Atari’s Pong. Though admittedly dull in a black-and-white, simplified version of tennis, the game didn’t raise the specter in my young mind of shooting something or someone.
Now the most popular video games of all shapes, sizes and colors are essentially virtual killing fields. Moreover, they are incredibly profitable. Just two, “Call of Duty — Black Ops” and “Modern Warfare 3” have made over $1 billion in a year.
Today’s blockbusters routinely glorify violence. In another cruel irony, though the last Batman installment, “The Dark Knight Rises,” opened in Aurora, Colo., with a troubled young man killing 12 and wounding 58, the unspeakably violent film went on to gross more than $1 billion worldwide. The Colorado assailant even painted his hair orange and came in character as a real, live Joker.
So where has Hollywood been since the Newtown massacre? AWOL — that’s where.
Isn’t it time that those politicians who reap the most benefit from Hollywood in the form of donations and fundraisers demand their financial backers and friends tone it down?
Perhaps it would be a good idea for Mr. Obama to add his principal fundraisers in Hollywood such as George Clooney to the list of those he calls to ask for help in solving this national crisis. The president should insist A-list celebrities take a stand against guns in movies, not just in our laws. Rappers could be helpful, too, as they glorify violence with the best of them.
Similarly, wouldn’t it be nice if Mrs. Feinstein complemented her efforts to restore the national assault weapons ban with urging California’s state government to crack down on Hollywood’s film violence? It seems it would be easier to pass anti-gun legislation if the public wasn’t so fascinated with guns in the first place.
Another irony: The former Democratic senator from Connecticut, Christopher J. Dodd, is now chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, based in Washington, D.C. One would think Mr. Dodd would be leading the charge to curb violence in the film industry, given what has happened in his home state, but thus far he’s been conspicuously absent from the debate.
It’s high time for Hollywood and the politicians they support to quit the hypocrisy and start practicing what they preach. I agree at least with the White House protesters’ refrain since the Newtown massacre: “Today is the day.”
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy commander who served as a Pentagon spokesman in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush administration.