Unfortunately, we see too many of these stories every year, and the media keeps on eating them up with a spoon. This particular tragedy is tailor made for both those who want to ban guns and those who want to blame society’s ills on “violent video games.”
An 8-year-old boy allegedly shot and killed his grandmother Thursday evening after playing the “Grand Theft Auto” video game, CNN reports.
Marie Smothers, 87, was pronounced dead inside her Slaughter, La. mobile home with a gunshot wound to the head. Police initially thought the shooting was an accident, but now believe it was intentional.
“Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time, investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III, ‘Grand Theft Auto IV,’ a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred,” read the press release provided to CNN.
First, in terms of full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of GTA, so I don’t come to this story without some built in bias, I freely admit. I’ve played every game in the GTA series and finished them all to 100%. I’m also unapologetic about the rights of gun owners, so these sorts of media memes really get under my skin.
But while the story is tragic, there are more than a few questions which go unanswered here. First, how did the 8 year old get his hands on the gun? The responsibility lies with the owner in cases like that, unless some outsider came and interfered with her weapon storage plan. And if you have children in a home where there are guns, that comes with an added responsibility to educate them early and often so they grow up to be responsible around firearms.
But back to the story lede, there is another question which goes completely unmentioned. What was an 8 year old doing playing Grand Theft Auto? The game is rated M (for mature) and nobody is supposed to be able to purchase it unless they are 18 or older. Somebody bought that game for the boy or let him have access to it. (And all of that relies on the extremely questionable premise that playing “violent video games” leads to real world violence.) But even if you buy into that, manufacturers have responded to the public’s concerns and instituted a rating system. GTA is intended for adults. Somebody in that home dropped the ball. In the end, this is less a story about guns or games, and more of parental responsibility and good parenting.