To reduce gunfire, give guns on TV the treatment of cigarettes

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In unveiling of a set of decrees in april, president Joe bidenJoe BidenSanders: SALT Deduction Reinstatement ‘Sends Terrible, Terrible Message’ GOP Gears Up For Crazy Week With Memorable Vote Shedding Light on COINTELPRO PLUS ‘Dangerous Legacy called gun violence an “epidemic” and an “international embarrassment”. To fully understand gun violence and the US demand for guns, a good place to start looking is entertainment media such as movies and television.

The United States is experiencing a increase in gun-related homicides linked to the pandemic crisis. But gun deaths have long been a public health crisis, especially for young people. During the crime wave that began in the late 1980s, young people were the victims a dramatic increase in homicides by firearms. Although these rates have declined, the gun fatality rate for 15-24 year olds remain higher than during the rise in crime of the late 1960s and 1970s.

There has been a lot of political talk about how to reduce gun violence, but relatively little about how to reduce the demand for guns themselves.

One might wonder how guns are advertised to the public. You will never see or hear an advertisement for a handgun or assault rifle on TV, and you are unlikely to see one on Facebook. The primary way Americans learn about gun use is through entertainment media movies and television. The gun industry saw this when the Dirty Harry the films introduced the .44 Magnum, a large and powerful handgun, which led to a jump in US sales of the Smith & Wesson Model 29. Gun makers have learned that Hollywood would be happy to use guns as product placement in its movies and TV shows. In 2011, handgun maker Glock even earned a life success award of the Brandchannel product placement tracking site for appearances in action films.

In recent years, we’ve looked at trends in gun use in movies and television. In one study, we found that the use of firearms PG-13 rated films – open to children of all ages – had increased to the point that their use was more frequent than in R-rated films, the traditional focus of such violence.

More recently, we have examined trends in the use of firearms for violent purposes in prime-time television drama, particularly in the police, medical and legal fields. We found that from 2000 to 2018, the amount of gun violence has doubled as a percentage of these emissions. More worryingly, the proportion of violence attributable to firearms has also increased steadily during this period. A viewer of these shows will not only see the increasing use of firearms, but in cases of violence, they will see firearms as the weapon of choice for inflicting harm on others.

We compared the trend of gun violence on television with the proportion of homicides in the United States attributable to firearms over the same period. Here we have seen some startling parallels, especially for young people. The more television shows described the use of firearms in violent scenes in a year, the greater the proportion of homicides committed with firearms that year. Although this was the case for the other age groups, the relationship was strongest for those aged 15 to 24.

Would that surprise the gun industry? It really shouldn’t be because product placements work. The tobacco industry framework settlement agreement prohibits this type of product placement for cigarettes in the 90s. In addition to product placement, research funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that the more teens saw movies with characters smoking cigarettes, the more likely they were. start smoking. Could something similar not happen with firearms?

It could be argued that seeing cigarette smoking is not morally objectionable and therefore more likely to be emulated by teens the more it is seen in use by attractive onscreen characters. But the same is true of guns, when they are used by attractive characters for seemingly justified reasons.

We tested this idea in a study in which we showed scenes of gun violence in popular movies to parents. When weapons were used to protect family or others, their use was considered acceptable for teenagers aged 15 and over. When weapons were used by less noble figures, their use was frowned upon. Thus, defense of oneself or others when using firearms is often seen as virtuous and portrayed by glamorous figures, such as James Bond.

To see if the same pattern applies to young people, we conducted an experiment using an fMRI scanner and showed similar scenes to young people between 18 and 22 years old. When they saw apparently righteous gun violence, their brain activation recorded in regions that signal approval. When they saw gun violence committed for less virtuous reasons, their brains registered activation in regions that often coincided with dislike.

Just as Hollywood has used cigarettes to portray exciting characters, it uses guns and violence to attract audiences. As research shows, entertainment with violence attracts a large audience. If Biden is to reduce the demand for guns, the government should consider funding more research into how the use of guns in movies and on television can glorify these guns – and make vulnerable young people consider them. weapons as a means of protection.

Research showing that on-screen representations of cigarette smoking influence adolescents has led to a reduction in on-screen smoking. Could we see a similar effect if we reduced the amount of gun violence on screen? Let’s do the research and find out.

Dan Romer is Research Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and Patrick E. Jamieson is Director of the Center’s Annenberg Health and Risk Communication Institute.



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