Is this week's apparent rash of school shooting plots related to video games, as some vocal critics would have it? Or, are other factors at play, in particular the Columbine anniversary, April 20th?
Among law enforcement officials, sources tell GP that the Columbine anniversary is closely monitored for its possible inspiration of copycat massacres. And what of those would-be copycats? What social and psychological factors motivate them?
Columbine killer Eric Harris, for example, suffered from depression and was taking medication. He was also an angry teenager, had recently broken up with a girlfriend and had been turned down in his longtime dream to enter the Marine Corps. He was suicidal and fascinated with guns.
GP: random thought - why does the National Rifle Association escape blame? Actor Charlton Heston was NRA president at the time of Columbine. Why is Michael Moore the only prominent social critic blaming guns instead of games?
Back on topic, GP finds rather appalling a comment made by serial video game critic Dave Grossman (seen at left) in a news report by WISH-TV8 (Indianapolis). Grossman made his remarks during a school safety summit sponsored by the Indiana School Safety Specialist Academy:
"The desire of the kids to commit this stuff is at levels we've never seen before," Grossman said. "The new ingredient in the equation is media violence, television, movies and especially the video games."
Especially the video games...
Meanwhile, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, there is a surprising degree of official reserve concerning an apparent game connection to a 17-year-old student who briefly held a teacher and another student hostage at gunpoint, firing a shot through a window during the incident.
As reported by the News-Observer, 17-year-old William Barrett Foster faces multiple criminal charges based on the incident. He left the school prior to the arrival of police and his mother immediately placed him into a hospital. Although the news report does not specify, it's likely that he is receiving psychological treatment, since no physical injuries are mentioned.
While one student described Foster as "one of those rebel kids," others told the newspaper he was a nice but quiet kid into skateboarding and video games, especially Halo. Foster's younger brother is so skilled at the popular Xbox shooter that he plays competitively and is paid to tutor others in mastering the game.
But here's the refreshing viewpoint expressed in the News-Observer report:
"...experts cautioned against linking video-game playing and school violence. Typically there are warning signs and other symptoms besides video-game playing, said Gregg O. McCrary, a retired FBI agent who trained teachers and police on what to look for to prevent juvenile violence. McCrary now has a consulting business, Behavioral Criminology International."
"'Not everybody who plays a violent video game or watches a violent movie is violent,' he said, adding, 'More people play video games who are not violent.'"