Finley: Free speech also fuels gun violence
The First Amendment is as sturdy a barrier as the Second to containing gun violence in America.
The freedom to keep and bear arms limits efforts to regulate firearms production, sales and ownership. Every restriction must pass the constitutional test, and that’s a rightfully high bar.
But availability and access to weapons isn’t the whole story when it comes to gun violence. It’s a tired cliche to say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. But it’s true.
America has a deep fascination with firearms, and the blame can’t all be placed at the feet of gun makers and retailers. Our popular culture is awash in violent imagery. Much of the gore depicted is wrought by guns.
The Hollywood moralists who cry out for gun control after each particularly violent episode should stand up and accept their own piece of the responsibility. Movie makers strive for ever more realistic scenes of mayhem and bloodshed. Even on television, it’s common now to see levels of slaughter that wouldn’t have slipped past the censors 25 years ago.
Video game makers put virtual weapons in the hands of players and allow them to experience the sensation of pulling a trigger and dropping a life-like target. Popular music glorifies all manner of anti-social activity.
Our children consume this stuff 24 /7. Pump such graphic imagery into the brains of children for year after year of their development and it’s impossible to think it doesn’t have an impact on their real life responses.
There’s little the government can or should do to regulate the production or consumption of such bloody fare. Freedom of speech and expression can’t be selectively denied. But just because you have a right doesn’t mean you should exercise it to the extreme. As a people, we should be policing our own conduct and voluntarily acting in the best interest of a healthy society.
We should pressure the purveyors of our entertainment to draw reasonable boundaries of taste and morality around their work. Every debauched impulse shouldn’t end up on a celluloid frame. Every gruesome nightmare shouldn’t stream into our homes.
Producers will say they are simply responding to the market. If consumers didn’t buy their extreme fare, they’d quit making it. I’m a free marketer. I accept their point. But just like with guns, it’s possible easy access might increase appetite and drive demand.
The makers should return to standards of appropriateness that recognize the potential influence violent games, music and movies may have on our children and the troubled souls in our communities.
Obviously, parents are the ultimate regulators of a child’s violence intake. Too many have defaulted to the lame rationalization that as long as their kids watch the disturbing material with them at their side, the harm is mitigated. Often that morphs into “as long as we’re somewhere in the house” and then, “Here’s the iPad, kid, watch what you want.”
Meanwhile, our children are growing up numb to the real affects of gun violence. Even if a small percentage act out on the twisted messages, the impact on society is devastating.
Another cliche: Garbage in, garbage out. That one is as true today as it’s ever been.
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