After an American tragedy with the magnitude of the shooting massacre in Newtown, one expected to see quick reactions and demands for retribution. The numerous gun buy-back programs seen in some areas are one example.

Such quick responses might make us feel good at the time but unless the buy backs are automatic weapons, they may not do a lot of good in the long run. The ones who benefit most from these programs may be people just eager to pawn off their old or broken firearms for some quick cash.

Alex Tabarrock of the conservative Independent Institute once said that the buy back program was like trying to drain the Pacific with a bucket since there are an estimated 310 million guns in the U.S., about one for every American.

The town Southington, Conn., which is 30 miles from Newtown, is looking at a root cause of the problem by targeting the violent video games which many feel are as dangerous as a loaded weapon in the hands of an unstable person. Beginning next Saturday, Southington will allow citizens to return violent video games in exchange for a gift certificates donated by the town's Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Joseph Erardi, Southington's school superintendent, said If just one violent video game is returned, it will be worth it. He said the effort isn't about quantity but about making a difference ... one student, one parent, one family, one community at a time.

The National Rifle Association have argued for years against violent videos and now they're not alone.

John Meyers, executive director of Southington's YMCA, is concerned about children becoming desensitized to violence and other risky behavior through the violent videos. The fact that Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old gunman at Sandy Hook elementary school, was obsessed with the video "Call of Duty," adds fuel to his argument.

The gunmen involved in recent mass shootings had some similar personality traits. They were all withdrawn, psychotic ... and they were all violent video game players. Today's computer games are so realistic that some children, especially those with emotional problems, have trouble telling what is real and what is not, which can be a trigger for violent behavior.

Researchers at Brock University in Canada found a clear link between teenagers playing graphic videos and displaying aggressive behavior in real life. They determined that the "games" could be teaching children that aggression is an "appropriate way to deal with conflict and anger."

Kate Fallon, General secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, says that if playing explicit games continues over a long period, some children become so used to watching people being hit that they don't understand that it can hurt somebody if done in real life.

David Outten, production editor for MovieGuide, is even more direct, calling those who make and sell such games the "trainers" of those who mass murder children. He pointed out that Sandy Hook Elementary was not a school in some inner city ghetto but located in a nice neighborhood and that Adam Lanza was not poor – his mother lived in a $537,000 home and her alimony checks were over $250,000 a year.

He said that the next mass murderer being trained by violent videos probably won't be a known thug or criminal but is more likely to he a smart, quiet, withdrawn psychopath who is being video "trained" in his bedroom in a gated community. He calls this type of person a "bomb being primed to explode."

The leaders in Southington, Conn. should be applauded for not making snap judgments against guns but instead are seeking to get at a root cause of what can trigger such violent behavior.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com [1]