After a tragedy, people naturally ask, “Why did this happen?” and “How can we prevent this from happening again?”
For some, the answer is simple. Life challenges us in order to force us to become better versions of ourselves, and these tragedies cannot and should not be prevented. After all, if Bruce Wayne’s parents never died, would he have become Batman? Others, though, prefer a more proactive approach. (Including Batman… does that make his life a Catch-22?)
Consider the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which I think we can all agree is a horrific tragedy, and one with complex causes. Here is a list of just some of the issues that have been blamed as “the” cause for this event:
Pick out any one of these three issues, and it does not create a killer. Consider everyone in the world who suffers from a mental illness, or everyone who has access to guns or knives, or everyone who plays violent video games. If any of these were to cause homicide, humanity would probably be extinct. Even when all three traits are combined in a single individual, it does not guarantee homicide. It might raise some red flags, and you might be able to claim that such a person is more likely to commit homicide than a person without as many factors, but no one could say with certainty that such a person is going to kill.
So without being able to accurately predict such attacks or to understand what caused Adam Lanza to kill, how do we prevent future attacks? Lawmakers want to limit comorbidity, and after failing to pass stricter gun control measures, some are now going after violent video games.
Violence and homicide, even mass homicides, are as old as human history. Violent video games are merely the newest whipping boy – before that, there was violent movies, comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, literature, and on and on and on.
At best, blaming violent acts on some aspect of pop culture is a knee-jerk reaction by honestly confused and concerned citizens floundering hopelessly for a quick fix to make things better. At worst, it is a ploy by cynics to advance their agendas by grabbing the headlines and twisting them to their own ends. Within hours of the Boston Marathon bombing, various public figures used that story to push their own ideas about government conspiracy, abortion, national security, and immigration, just to name a few issues other than violent media.
My advice? Take a deep breath and remember that increasing sensationalism in the news and the availability heuristic may make it seem like the world is going to hell, but violent crime is actually down.