Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Dec. 15, 1999 /6 Teves, 5760

Don Feder

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
David Corn
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Robert Samuelson
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports
Weekly Standard



Kid killers --- the culture is the smoking gun -- WHEN KIDS KILL, what pulls the trigger: guns or the culture?

A series of videotapes made by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris -- who murdered 12 students and a teacher in Littleton, Colo., last April -- brings the question into sharp focus.

In the tapes (one made just days before the Columbine High School massacre) covered in the current issue of Time magazine, Klebold said he hoped to take the lives of hundreds of his classmates in a nihilistic act that would settle the score for every slight he had ever suffered.

After each school shooting -- Littleton, Jonesboro, Ark., West Paducah, Ky. -- calls for more gun control go forth from the president and other ritualistic liberals. Clinton is aiding a class-action suit against gun-makers by local public-housing authorities.

I'm old enough to recall what the world was like before students came to school armed and dangerous. What's changed since then?

When I was in high school in the early 1960s, there was no shortage of firearms. There are more today, but the percentage of households with guns has actually declined from 48 percent in 1960 to 42 percent in 1997.

Access to guns was much easier 40 years ago. You could buy them through the mail, and there were no federal regulations on sales or transfers to minors.

Most of our gun-control laws were a response to the assassinations and urban riots of the late '60s.

There were lots of guns then; there are lots of guns now. What's changed -- dramatically, for the worse -- is the culture. We live in a society awash in drugs, where violence is extolled and kids are habituated to homicide.

We congratulate ourselves that the portion of 12- to 17-year-olds classified as regular drug-users declined somewhat last year (9.9 percent in 1998, from 11.4 percent in 1997). But in the '60s, narcotics was confined to the dregs of society. Now, tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of thousands of middle-class kids pass public-school portals in a dazed, euphoric state.

Other drugs course through our culture's veins. The American Medical Association says the "link between media violence and real-life violence has been proven by science time and again."

Of the 657 major motion pictures released last year, two-thirds got an "R" or "NC-17" rating for violence, sexual content or both.

Americans ages 12 to 24 make up 20 percent of the population but constitute 37.4 percent of moviegoers. Films like "Payback," the latest Mel Gibson revenge fantasy, do not teach compassion.

Besides inciting bloodlust, Hollywood can create a yearning for the notoriety that comes from committing a spectacular crime. On one tape, the Columbine killers muse that Quentin Tarantino may direct a movie about their lives. "Directors will be fighting over this story," Klebold boasts.

If studios project the images, the music industry provides the beat.

In his report "A Virus Loose Within Our Culture," the Free Congress Foundation's Tom Jipping notes that the average teen-ager spends four hours a day listening to music. Heavy metal, with its recurring themes of suicide and slaughter, and Gansta Rap (odes to rape and mayhem) are two of their favorite genres.

Shock-rocker Marilyn Manson is particularly popular. Kip Kinkel, who murdered his parents in Springfield, Ore., absorbed Manson's message ("I'm dying, I hope you're dying too"). Luke Woodham, who killed his parents and classmates in Pearl, Miss., was another Manson fan.

News accounts of the latest school shooter -- who wounded four in Fort Gibson, Okla., last week -- report the seventh-grader liked video games. No surprise here. Almost 70 percent of America's kids spend an average of 10 hours a week at play with a console or computer keyboard.

In one survey of fourth- to eighth-graders, half said their favorite games feature violence. "Doom," "Mortal Kombat" and "Duke Nukem" teach the joys of annihilation.

David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, notes that Eric Harris (who refers to "Doom" twice in one tape) had customized his favorite shoot-'em-up game to serve as a dress rehearsal for the Columbine killings.

A gun is an instrument, no more. It doesn't shape thoughts or incite emotions. A killer has murder in his heart long before he takes a gun into his hand. In school shootings, the culture is the smoking gun.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder's latest book is Who's Afraid of the Religious Right. Comment on his column by clicking here.

Don Feder Archives

©1999, Creators Syndicate