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NRA takes aim at violent video games, culture

The NRA asks why the US media isn't as outraged at violence in pop culture as it is at gun ownership

In his first speech since last week's mass shooting at a Connecticut school, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, cast blame for the killing spree everywhere but guns, advocating for armed guards in U.S. schools and decrying the "dirty little truth" of a "shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence" -- video games.

Increased calls for stricter gun control measures have followed the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in which Adam Lanza, 20, shot and killed his mother and then went to Sandy Hook Elementary School and gunned down 20 children and six women, including the principal, school psychologist and teachers, before turning a gun on himself.

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to investigate legislative measures that could be taken to help stem the growing number of mass shootings and other gun crime. Biden has until the end of January to provide some recommendations and appears set to look at not just gun control but violence in U.S. pop culture and how the country treats its mentally ill.

But the NRA had stayed largely silent, releasing a written statement Tuesday saying that the lobbying group for the gun industry and its 4 million members "were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown. Out of respect for the families, and as a matter of common decency, we have given time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts before commenting. The NRA is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again."

Apparently, the NRA's definition of meaningful includes this revelation: "And here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people," LaPierre said in the televised news conference."Through vicious, violent video games with names like 'Bulletstorm,' 'Grand Theft Auto,' 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Splatterhouse.' "

He then turned to two large flat-screen monitors and played scenes from a crude 2002 Flash game, "Kindergarten Killer," which isn't something most Internet users would ever come across, but is easy to find once you know the name. It involves playing the role of a school janitor and shooting young children who themselves have guns.

"You begin your killing spree, first killing the kindergarten teacher. But then for some unknown reason the kids pull out their own guns!" reads the game's instructions as the player enters level one. "They're outnumbering you, so kill them off and get you of the halls quick! However, you still want to keep your plans of killing the head of the kindergarten, so get to the tower block where his office is. But be careful, those pesky kids are everywhere."

"It's been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?" he said, addressing the reporters in the room, from whom he refused to take questions.

LaPierre also criticized violent movies and music videos.

"And then [the media] have the nerve to call it '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 said.

LaPierre's comments sought to push blame for mass shootings from guns alone to other aspects of American life, although the same games, TV shows and music videos available here are available in other countries that rarely suffer from gun violence. The difference in those countries is that it's difficult or impossible for the general public to get hold of firearms.

The "Kindergartner Killer" game, shocking as its premise is, appears to be a game of minor popularity, simply programmed, that few have probably heard about.

The much more famous titles, like those mentioned by LaPierre, are likely to get more attention.

One of the most popular franchises, Activision's "Call of Duty," outsells most Hollywood movies. The most recent installment of the game, which typically puts the player as a soldier fighting other soldiers, racked up sales of US$1 billion in its first 16 days on the market.

LaPierre's statement was framed around a call for more guns at schools to protect children from gunmen. That brought quick criticism from several groups, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"NRA officials today blamed everyone but themselves for the conditions that permitted the monstrous attack on the children and teachers in Sandy Hook Elementary School.  They said that gun laws don't work and that pursuing legislation is a waste of time.  They proposed instead the equivalent of an arms race," the group said in a statement.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is [email protected]


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