Dodd: Media isn't to blame for gun violence
February 16th, 2013
09:16 AM ET
8 years ago

Dodd: Media isn't to blame for gun violence

(CNN) - Chris Dodd, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America and a former U.S. senator, dismissed as "predictable" on Friday the idea that movies play a role in spurring gun violence and instead said the nation's mental health systems should be the subject of attention in the quest to reduce gun deaths.

"It's sort of predictable, in a way, and if you go back over the years, there were people who suggested that comic books were the reason before any of this existed," he said at the National Press Club. "So there's been - if you go back and look at the history, any time one of these things happens, there's kind of a lurching from time to time to suggest that this is the root cause of the problems."

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He was responding to a question about the National Rifle Association's criticism of the movies and broader entertainment field, which the group's executive vice president described in December as "a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people."

"We have blood-soaked films out there like 'American Psycho,' 'Natural Born Killers.' They're aired like propaganda loops on Splatterdays and every single day," Wayne LaPierre said in a statement one week after a gunman shot dead 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

Dodd was raised in Connecticut and said his father, also a U.S. senator, "was very involved in these issues."

"Connecticut is now the seventh largest producer of guns - we were No. 1 in the country for many years with the Colt and the Winchester and the like, but if you were to ask me where I think we need to be focusing a lot of our attention, it is in the mental health space," he said.

He noted his work on the Mental Health Parity Act, which required health insurers provide access to mental health care alongside other types of treatment.

"While there's much more pyrotechnics around guns and about media, my hope is ... if we don't do anything else, to (act to) finally put some meaningful resources into the scourge of mental health," he said.

Representatives from the motion picture association and other entertainment groups met with Vice President Joe Biden and the gun violence group President Barack Obama appointed after the Newtown shooting. The group also met with the NRA and other gun rights advocacy groups, gun control proponents and mental health advocates.

A CNN/Time/ORC International Poll in mid-January found 37% of Americans believe the influence of popular culture is the primary cause of gun violence. An equal number attributed it to the ways parents raise their children and 23% cited the availability of guns.

The NRA has not focused on the role of movies, video games and other media since the December statement, but has called for making the current background check system more functional, including increasing the reporting of individuals with mental health issues that would make them unsuitable gun owners.

As part of the December statement, LaPierre unveiled a School Shield program that would put armed security officers or police officers into schools as a line of defense against gun violence.

His comments on the entertainment industry were scathing at that announcement. He cited movies, video games and music videos that the producers "have the nerve to call ... entertainment."

"But is that what it really is? Isn't fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?" he asked. "In a race to the bottom, many conglomerates compete with one another to shock, violate and offend every standard of civilized society, by bringing an even more toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty right into our homes."

Filed under: Chris Dodd • Connecticut • Gun control • NRA
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. batjones

    Christopher Dodd is a hack if thinks that the entertainment media that feature gratuitous gun violence do not add to gun violence. He obviously has been part of the problem in Congress.

    February 16, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  2. jpmichigan

    I wonder! Dodd's message is it a reflection of companies he lobbies for?

    February 16, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    Dodd is NOT entirely correct. There is clear evidence that in the case of teens, shooting people in high schools, and younger assailants, that the teens have emulated movies, in their acts. That is an absolutely proven fact.

    February 16, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  4. phoenix86

    If media has no effect, why are there movie ratings?

    February 16, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  5. Gurgyl

    Congress is to take the blame for not passing gun-control laws. Pass gun-control and talk.

    February 16, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  6. cbr

    Mr. Dodd may be correct that the media is the cause of violence but it sure may be an influence to those who might want to commit violence. The line between what children see and here and what the media produces is often blurred. Not much is needed to move across the line.

    Mr. Dodd should not be making these statements unless he has the proof to back it up. He also is not an expert on gun violence and should be pushing to finding a way to eliminate this violence.

    February 16, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  7. Ancient Texan

    Dodd also assured us that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were solvent and in no danger of failing. And how could violent movies and video games not influence impressionable addicts of such violence?

    February 16, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  8. ARob

    Violent forms of media do not CAUSE violence, but may contribute to it to some extent. Violent media would not appeal to nonviolent people, but may influence people who already disposed toward violence. It remains the fault of the person, not the media. Blaming violence on violent media contributes toward the truly guilty people avoiding blame and responsibility.
    By comparison, possessing a gun is more likely to lead to gun-related violence than possessing a violent video game or movie. And among people who are inclined to violent behavior, owning a gun is more dangerous than owning a copy of The Expendables or Grand Theft Auto.

    February 16, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    An approach that will make a real difference is a combination of sensible gun legislation (require background checks on ALL purchases, ban military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines), better access to mental health services, and yes, maybe Hollywood should consider creating more engaging content that doesn't involve macho wannabees shooting off pretend weapons at each other every other second.

    February 16, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  10. gijames1225

    As a strong advocate of the freedom of speech, I still think it's idiotic to think that the media's glorification of violence through film, music, and games has no part to play in a violent culture. Yes, it's perfectly possible to consume all those types of media and not go kill someone, but there is a definitely a romance and infamy to it now that can prey on the weaker persons. Overall, it is societal decadence and immorality that is to blame (in addition to mental instability in the particular criminals), but our media is a large part of that.

    February 16, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. Old School Still Works For Me

    I think gun violence has a combination of contributing factors. Let's face it some families know their family members are mentally ill and they leave weapons laying around for people like the CT. shooter to use. I watched western shows growing up but know the difference between fiction and reality. I do not think some people have ever been taught the value of human life or how to solve disagreements without violence. Once the trigger is pulled you can't recall it. We also did not have the internet, cable, and violent computer games. It was either do chores, homework or get out of the house and play if we were young. Responsible gun owners have nothing to worry about but let's face it some people should never be allowed to purchase a weapon.

    February 16, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  12. Bill from GA

    So the crazy guy that shot up a theater in Colorado, on the opening night of some new Batman movie, painted like a movie character; movies didn't influence him??

    And all these gangsta-types didn't 'learn' to be bad from their rap-star role models?

    While many elements contribute to the problem, to dismiss " the idea that movies play a role in spurring gun violence" is wrong.

    February 16, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. Woman In California

    On this you're wrong Mr. Dodd. While I'll admit this is not the only factor in gun violence, it does play a significant part. When big name movie stars walk into buildings with loaded guns seeking revenge, looking cool and ultimately being the hero, it does play on impressionable minds. Once our children become of age, we can't possibly keep them from watching violence and going to the movies to see it. Please pass some gun control laws so that this country doesn't go back to the days of the wild west. Please.

    February 16, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. Bill from GA

    Dodd says: " the nation's mental health systems should be the subject of attention in the quest to reduce gun deaths.

    Just as almost all owners of assault rifles do no harm to others, most people under treatment of the nation's mental health systems do no harm to others. And his focus seems to be aimed at the few mass killings that get so much national attention.

    Were the killers of the young lady in Chicago last month suffering from mental problems? Are most of the killings in and around our cities each month from people suffering from mental problems? These days it seems that half of the young people are on some kind medication. Yet only one or two each year go on a shooting rampage. Is our mental health system supposed to be so competent as to single out those few, out of the millions? And has Dodd noticed how the ones that do kill often emulate a movie character?

    There are many facets to the gun violence problem; none should be readily dismissed. The media influence, movies and music, is a part of the problem.

    February 16, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. Gonzoinhouston

    They're all in agreement; it's obviously someone else's fault! Sorry folks, but it isn't a simple problem and there isn't a sound-bite solution.

    February 16, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  16. Scott

    The hell media isn't a significant contributer to gun violence. Through movies, tv shows, and music violence is shown and condoned. People emulate what they see and hear. It's the lifestyle portrayed in movies and music that people emulate. Why is gangsta rap so popular? Why are violent movies so popular? If guns are banned then violent movies and music that reference firearmes should be banned as well.

    February 16, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  17. Larry L

    Dodd, like the N.R.A. is protecting his personal interests and not opening his mind to all possibilities. Gun violence is a product of gun availability, a stressed-out population, gang-based crime, and a culture of violence fueled by both the media and the gun lobbies. We must work to solve the problem from each of these perspectives – including universal background checks and restrictions to future production and importation of high capacity magazines and high capability weapons.

    February 16, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  18. SK in VA

    So if it's violent movies and games causing gun violence, why is it that these games and movies are also available in nations like Canada and Australia that have very little gun violence? Oh, right, this is just the gun industry's way to deflect from the real cause.

    Unless, of course, you really want to believe that board games like Monopoly lead to a crisis in real estate ownership.

    February 16, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  19. Tom

    I like Dodd but I think he is wrong on this one. It's not guns, it's not background checks, it's not straw purchasers, it's not violence in movies, it's not semi-automatic military style rifles, it's not large clips and it's not anything. But we have a problem and it needs to be fixed. Everything is on the table. The American people don't want a future of gun violence, they want it fixed.

    February 16, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |