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Lys Anzia – WNN Breaking Commentary
(WNN) Denver, Colorado, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: As we near the one year December 14 anniversary of the tragedy that took the young lives of 20 elementary school students and the lives of 6 women staffers and teachers in the town of Newtown, Connecticut, no one knows the real reason Adam Lanza decided that day, only ten days before Christmas eve last year, to become a mass murderer.
But Lanza is not the only one who has brought his own fantasies of violence to reality. An outbreak of violence today in Denver, Colorado mirrors what some youth in the U.S. are doing to others to destroy life and most often themselves.
Today’s news about the high school student who committed suicide after shooting two students as he was looking for a teacher by name at Arapahoe High School, located in the town of Centennial just south of Denver, marks another dark round of youth gun violence that is not going away any time soon in the United States.
A custodian working in the school told Denver ABC Chanel 7News that “he saw a student dressed in tactical gear running through the school.” After hearing two gun shots the janitor then called 911. One of the students shot by the high school student attacker today is now said to be in serious condition at a local hospital.
Sandy Hook Elementary school, as well as the small town of Newtown, Connecticut, had never dealt with any kind of violence like the one that hit the Sandy Hook Elementary school before. Although the incidence of previous gun violence in the town, and throughout the State of Connecticut, has not been properly documented, say gun-control advocates in the region.
On the anniversary of the tragedy activists who hope to restrict open gun purchases without a firearm background check are beginning again to rev-up on what they call ‘protective advocacy’ for children in the United States as they take on the powerful U.S. gun lobby fueled by the National Rifle Association. But it’s the parents and siblings of those children who have been murdered who are the ones most likely to suffer under the absence of a member of their own family.
Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza broke through into the elementary school as he used the bullets of his gun to break the glass of the school’s entrance that fateful day, just like a character in a ‘shoot-em-up’ video game. Bringing two guns, a Glock handgun and a Sig-Sauer handgun, into the building to kill his small victims he left his AR-15 assault-style rifle in his car. Video games were found in his home, but to date no has been able to adequately analyze whether violent games had an affect on the murderer.
But the negative effect of violent video games on youth has been a topic of debate among experts for the past decades.
This past October 2013 the Senate and the House Representatives in Connecticut have passed a new bill to establish a Violent Video Game Task Force within the Department of Children and Families to study the effects of violent video games on youth behavior.
The question is: How many parents are innocently looking away today as their teenage sons play violent video games for hours in their bedrooms with the door closed?
The U.S. Army has known for years the value of video games to train soldiers to kill. The success of the games are based primarily on its ability to display realistic depictions of violence that can encourage interaction with the observer to jump in to be part of a military ‘take down’ or other activities. Corey Mead, author of the new book “War Play” has correlated a video’s ability to place the observer in total immersion something that the Military developed for training soldiers.
In the videos produced by the U.S. Defense Department the video training for battle can include up to date information from a military action that happened only days ago on a specific hill in Afghanistan. It is very effective because of the realism and accuracy used to replicate that same hill in ‘virtual training’ video, outlined Mead in a recent interview with David Brown of KUT.org 90.5FM community radio station in Austin, Texas, U.S.
In virtual training a soldier watching video games is basically surrounded in a virtual battle with the enemy, conveyed Mead.
The manufacturing of violent video games today is a lucrative business. One of the most popular games today, Grand Theft Auto, has been predicted to make over one billion in revenue sales.
“”First-person shooters just don’t do it for me anymore, that’s why I’m excited about GTA, cause it gives you a different perspective. It’s not just people running around shooting each other—you can steal cars, rob banks, so all the stuff you wish you could do and get away with in society,” said gamer George Lizama to CNBC journalist Julia Boorstin in September 2013.
“Most video game makers would identify, at least themselves notionally, as liberal but politics tend to go out the window for game makers when it comes to anything involving the games they actually make,” said Mead during his interview with David Brown. “It’s kind of like the scientists who worked on say the atom bomb who don’t think about consequences. It just the economics of each game,” added Mead.
Live and virtual training by the U.S. military using video games is an important part of making a soldier a soldier, conveyed Mead. But how many American teenage boys are fantasizing that they too are soldiers on a battlefield when playing video games? More analysis of this needs to be done.
As the gun lobby continues to hold a wide area of influence among U.S. legislators at a local and federal level, some of the parents of those children who died at Sandy Hook Elementary continue to speak out.
“If Americans knew what bullets do to human flesh, they would support gun control,” said Veronique Pozner the mother of 6-year-old Noah Pozner. Noah’s parents have worked hard since their son’s death to lobby for greater gun control in the U.S. Veronique and her husband have approached both the Connecticut State Assembly and President Obama to tell their story.
When the funeral for their son Noah was set, Veronique decided that her son should have an open casket, in spite of his horrific bullet wounds that shot into and removed most of his jaw. This act was something that made the Governor of Connecticut Dannel Malloy cry when he looked into the casket.
“Words alone cannot heal our nation. Only action can do that. Gun violence is a national epidemic,” said New York city Mayor Michael Bloomberg only days after the Sandy Hook shootings. “I demand a plan. The time for talk is over,” he continued.
“Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for the acts of violent or deranged criminals. Nor do we believe the government should dictate what we can lawfully own and use to protect our families,” said NRA Executive Vice-president and spokesperson Wayne LaPierre in a public statement released only 7 weeks following the incident at Sandy Hook.
Tomorrow on December 14 most of the parents of the children who died at Sandy Hook are bracing themselves for yet another hard day of grief. Some will go public places with a sadness they share with others that will not go away. Others will stay silent preferring not to talk to the news media or their neighbors about the murder of their child as they stay quiet and reflective at home.
“Make the most of every moment you have with these angels,” says American saxophonist jazz musician Jimmy Greene in what he calls “a letter to my younger self.” Greene, who’s professional work as a saxophonist on over 70 albums with the likes of Freddie Hubbard and Harry Connick, Jr., lost his six-year-old daughter Ana Márquez-Greene during the Sandy Hook shootings. Jimmy’s now 9-year-old son Isaiah, who was also attending Sandy Hook that day, was miraculously not injured. But the heart of a young brother who has lost his sister cannot be totally ‘uninjured’.
Isaiah, like the rest of his family, will never be the same again.
As she works through her own grief and new life after the loss of her daughter Greene’s wife, Nelba Márquez-Greene, manages the Facebook page Remembering Ana that honors the life of her daughter.
“We remember you Ana Grace,” says one of Nelba’s posts on Facebook.
Veronique Pozner knows firsthand the impact gun violence can have. Her 6-year-old son Noah was one of the 20 first-graders killed in the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Just over a month after the shooting, she testified before a hearing of a legislative subcommittee reviewing gun laws at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn. and continues to speak out on the rippling effects of gun violence.
The growth of media has had an ever-expanding role in the lives of children, especially in terms of a child’s physical and mental health. Here, Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, comments on media as a force that powerfully affects child development, health, and behavior. Paying particular attention to TV, movies, music, and video games, Rich offers perspective on common concerns over media and suggests ways to avoid the media’s negative effects.
Human rights journalist Lys Anzia’s written and editing work has appeared on Truthout, CURRENT TV, ReliefWeb, Women’s Media Center, UNESCO, World Bank Publications, UN Women, Vital Voices, Huffington Post World, The Guardian News and Thomson Reuters Foundation Trustlaw, among many others. Anzia is also the founder and editorial content advisor for WNN – Women News Network.
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