Dramatic Increase in Mass Shootings Mirrored by Rise in Violence in PG-13 Movies
February 1, 2015
Al Jazeera America & Kate Kilpatrick / Al Jazeera America
According to the FBI, the number of shootings in which a gunman wounds or kills multiple people has increased dramatically in recent years, with the majority of attacks in the last decade occurring at a business or school. At the same time, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, today's PG-13 movies are even more violent than R-rated ones. Violence in Hollywood films has doubled since 1950 while gun violence in PG-13 movies has more than tripled since 1985.
FBI: Dramatic Increase in Mass Shootings
Report finds significant spike in majority of attacks over last decade, with most occurring at a business or school
Al Jazeera America
(September 25, 2014) -- The number of shootings in which a gunman wounds or kills multiple people has increased dramatically in recent years, with the majority of attacks in the last decade occurring at a business or school, according to an FBI report released Wednesday.
The study focused on 160 "active shooter incidents" between 2000 and 2013. Those are typically defined as cases in which a gunman in an attack shoots or attempts to shoot people in a populated area.
The majority of the shootings occurred either at a business or school, university or other education facility, according to the study, conducted in conjunction with Texas State University. Other shootings have occurred in open spaces, on military properties, and in houses of worship and health care facilities.
The report was released a day after a man who had recently been fired from his job at a United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) distribution center in Birmingham, Alabama, shot dead two supervisors at the site before turning the gun on himself.
That ending, with the gunman taking his own life, was a common one in the events the FBI analyzed, with 40 percent of the shooters turning their guns on themselves. Police shot and killed attackers in 13 percent of the cases analyzed.
According to the report, an average of six shooting incidents occurred in the first seven years that were studied. That average rose to more than 16 per year in the last seven years of the study. That period included the 2012 shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, as well as last year's massacre at the Washington Navy Yard in which a gunman killed 12 people before dying in a police shootout.
The goal of the report, which excluded shootings that are gang and drug related, was to compile accurate data about the attacks and to help local police prepare for or respond to similar killings in the future, federal law enforcement officials said.
"These incidents, the large majority of them, are over in minutes. So it's going to have to be a teaching and training of the best tactics, techniques and procedures to our state and local partners," said James F. Yacone, an FBI assistant director who oversees crisis response and was involved in the report.
A total of more than 1,000 people were either killed or wounded in the shootings studied. The gunman acted alone in all but two of the cases. The shooters were female in at least six of the incidents.
Law enforcement officials who specialize in behavioral analysis say the motives of gunmen vary, but many have a real, or perceived, personally held grievance that they feel mandates an act of violence. Though it's hard to say why the number of shootings has increased, officials say they believe many shooters are inspired by past killings and the resulting notoriety.
"The copycat phenomenon is real," said Andre Simons of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit. "As more and more notable and tragic events occur, we think we're seeing more compromised, marginalized individuals who are seeking inspiration from those past attacks."
Richard Parker, a lecturer at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, noted the numbers of mass shootings are minimal compared with the roughly 14,000 murders and 1.15 million violent crimes reported in the United States per year.
"They get more attention than they statistically represent because they are so rare," Parker said. "You have to ask where are the bulk of murders taking place, and this doesn't even qualify as a significant minority. This is a tiny, tiny fraction."
Study Finds Gun Violence in PG-13
Movies Has Tripled Since 1985
Overall violence in movies has doubled since 1950, according to the study
Kate Kilpatrick / Al Jazeera America
(November 11, 2013) -- Today's PG-13 movies are more violent than R-rated ones, according to a new study, "Gun Violence Trends in Movies," (PDF) published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The study, funded by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, looked at a sample of the top 30 films each year since 1950. It found that violence in films has doubled since 1950 and that gun violence in PG-13 movies has more than tripled since 1985, when the PG-13 rating took effect. Gun violence remained the same in R-rated movies and decreased in G and PG movies.
PG-13 movies took in $5.7 billion at the box office in 2012, according to Box Office Mojo -- more than 50 percent of total box office revenue while accounting for only 18 percent of titles.
"The PG-13 rating is not really being used appropriately to tell people these films actually do show things that might be harmful," said Daniel Romer, one of the study's authors.
As for the harm done, Romer cites the weapons effect: that merely seeing guns increases the likelihood of aggressive responses, as some studies have concluded. The increasing presence of guns in popular movies, he said, can raise the weapons effect on both individuals and society.
"They're not being used in ways people who defend guns typically talk about -- hunting, sport or target practice," he said. "They're used primarily to maim and kill people. So we think they create scripts that young people learn that's what a gun is for."
But some scholars argue that the weapons effect doesn't give a complete picture of the effects of gun violence in movies on society.
More than 200 academics signed an open letter sent to the American Psychiatric Association in September, saying that responsible scholars should "make good-faith arguments both that media violence may have some influence on aggression and other outcomes or that media violence may not have such effects." The letter said there is pressure to produce only "positive" findings that link media and societal violence.
Nevertheless, Romer said that the potential for such harm has increased dramatically as movies that would have earned an R rating in the past for depictions of violence now pass as PG-13 -- meaning they can be seen by a larger, younger audience. He believes the trend is related to the increasing popularity of fantasy action movies like "The Avengers," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "The Dark Knight Rises."
"They're human (actors), but they're based on comic-book stories, and the rating board seems to give them more leeway," he said.
According to Romer, there's another reason for the rise in PG-13 gun violence: It sells -- even better than sex. "The Avengers," with its $1.5 billion haul in 2012, was last year's top-grossing film. Common Sense Media, an independent nonprofit that reviews and rates media for parents and their kids, deemed "The Avengers" inappropriate for children younger than 13 because of its massive explosions and numerous casualties. The parents and kids who posted reviews on the site believe the movie is suitable for ages 10 and up.
But Chris Ferguson, who studies media violence and is the chairman of the psychology department at Stetson University in Florida, doesn't buy Romer's arguments.
"The real question for me is, 'So what?'" Ferguson said.
He said the report offers no data that connects an increase in movie violence to an increase in real-world violence. Furthermore, while violence in movies has been growing, youth and gun violence in the United States has been declining. He believes the study distracts people from more probable causes of gun violence like poverty, educational disparities and mental health.
According to Ferguson, increasing movie violence reflects how community standards change over time -- which isn't necessarily a bad thing. While movies of the 1950s were very tame, those of the 1920s were much more violent.
"We're certainly on a liberalizing trend," said Ferguson. "But I'm not sure people really want to go back to the 1950s with Lucy and Desi sleeping in separate beds."
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.