Commenting on the Critics with Simon Columb…
It comes as no surprise that, in the wake of the horrendous tragedy in Newtown, there are groups of people who will blame the entertainment industry – and indeed the NRA has waded in with its opinion. A transcript from the NRA Conference reads…
“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? Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like American Psycho and Natural Born Killers that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it ‘entertainment.’“
Read the full transcript here.
Though a film writer, I am also a teacher. I’d like to think I have a vested interest in the expectations and attitudes the NRA have towards where violence comes from (films) and what should be enforced to ensure safety (teachers carrying guns).
Only last night I recounted a story to friends whereby I was involved in a fight – the only fight I have ever been involved in in my life. I was a teenager and I punched another teenager in the face – before running away in tears after committing such a ‘sin’ (thanks Mum for that conscience). Violence has never been my method of ensuring resolution to a situation. Despite this deeply rooted (cowardly?) response, I have always enjoyed films that have a healthy dose of violence – The Dark Knight trilogy, the Saw series, David Cronenberg and Martin Scorsese all rank as favourite past times of cinema. In addition to this, one of the very few games I play is Grand Theft Auto. With all this in mind, it is fascinating to see how completely at odds the NRA’s argument truly is. Clearly these ‘ills’ and ‘dangers’ in entertainment have yet to affect me – then again, these films and games are rated accordingly in the UK and I am above age. The ratings in America are a little more ambiguous…
The true horror, of course, is the assumption that the key to fixing the dangers of firearms is to ensure that staff are equipped. The NRA expects armed staff in schools whilst offering training for teachers themselves to carry guns on site. They explain how dangerous the “gun-free” nature of schools is, assuming schools almost have a walk-in policy for crazed murderers.
In the UK, there is not a culture of firearms. There is not a deeply ingrained expectation that live rounds are loaded into the guns of police officers. I remember visiting America for the first time in 2003 and my brother and I looked at the police, in awe, that they carried guns at all. Without a culture of firearms, the UK still gives us many of the best action filmmakers – Garth Edwards’ The Raid, Sam Mendes and Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale and Skyfall respectively, Christopher Nolan, Guy Ritchie (Snatch), Ridley and Tony Scott (American Gangster and Domino). Despite a clear appreciation of action-sequences using guns – there is a clear separation between watching action and personally using a gun.
British folk have experience of these horrors too – as anyone who was alive in 1996 will recall. In a small town called Dunblane, Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children at a primary school, and additionally shot a teacher before killing himself within the school premises. Consequently, public debate enacted two amendments to Firearms Acts that “effectively made private ownership of handguns illegal”. Suffice to say, gun-crimes and massacres in the UK are rare.
And, just a thought, what if the NRA is wrong? What if, by arming teachers and staff at schools, the number of massacres increases? Overworked and tired teachers blame themselves for an incident that will affect their position indefinitely; inquisitive and curious students interested to see what the teachers gun looks like – and what it sounds like. The outcome could be disastrous. The NRA can’t revive the dead and apologise – whereas, by ensuring better gun laws are in place, and less guns are accessible in the USA, I cannot imagine how the situation can get worse.
In the UK, our appetite for violence and ‘danger’ in computer games, TV and film has not waned – but I’d like to believe that students feel safe and parents feel comfortable knowing that a gun is the last thing their child will be exposed to at school. But I’d also like to think that parents use ratings placed on products effectively – if it’s rated 18, then a child shouldn’t watch it. There is a balance – but I don’t think that chastising entertainment is the way forward.