The Baltimore Times extends heartfelt words of comfort to the families of those lost and injured in the recent mass shooting at Brooklyn Homes. We further offer our support to Mayor Brandon Scott and the city administration as they investigate the shootings and assist the wounded and those otherwise affected.
Mayor’s Scott’s assessment of the situation is spot on: “This tragic incident is another glaring, unfortunate example of the deep issues of violence in Baltimore, in Maryland and this country and particularly gun violence and the access to illegal guns.” At its root, “the deep issues of violence” described by the mayor define America’s long-simmering culture of aggression as the source.
That’s why gun violence is not just a local problem and appears to be happening everywhere all the time. American popular media markets a mass mentality of mayhem through the entertainment industry, targeting consumers from cradle to grave with programming saturated with depictions of maiming and murder.
Violent content aimed at children began in 1908 with Émile Cohl’s first-ever fully animated silent film, “Fantasmagorie,” where pain was purposely inflicted on characters as entertainment, including stabbing and decapitation. In the 115 years since, graphic violence has become the featured component of television, cinema, and video games that many experts believe has desensitized viewers to real pain and suffering as a consequence of actual violence committed against real people.
The volatile ingredient that has ignited hyper aggression triggered by overexposure to constant depictions of extreme media violence that has morphed from a state of mind to daily mass shootings, as Mayor Scott pointed out, is “access to illegal guns,” and in many cases access to legal guns by people who should not possess them. In 2020, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s trade group, estimated the total number of firearms owned by civilians at 433.9 million, not including illegal and unregistered guns. The approximate number of Americans is 333 million.
The combination of being weaned on violence from birth combined with owning 100 million more guns than there are people in America has resulted in the carnage of mass shootings we are witnessing daily nationwide that Brandon Scott called out. Unfortunately, it is only mass shootings that have become a recent trend. Gun violence has been steadily expanding upward for many decades. In an April 2023 editorial, The Baltimore Times reported that from 1975 through 2022, Baltimore saw 12,910 murders, one murder every 32.5 hours for 48 straight years.
Worse yet, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s crime data index, from 1960 (the first-year national statistics were collected) through 2022, there were 1,103,619 murders committed in the United States; 17,517 murders per year for 63 straight years; two murders per hour nationwide for over six decades. In 1960 there were 9,110 homicides nationally; in 2022 there were 20,266. From 1960 to 2022 the U.S. population grew by 186%. In the same time period murders grew by 222%. In 1960 there were zero mass shootings in America; in 2022 there were 646.
While there is no expert consensus on the direct correlation between consumption of constant, excessive media violence, the sheer volume and extreme graphic nature of violence Americans consume daily is too much to conclude that it has no negative effect on violent behaviors. The Baltimore Times has compiled the following publicly available data for your consideration. Are violent media programs programming Americans toward worsening violent behavior? You decide.
• A preschooler who daily watches two hours of cartoons will be exposed to 10,000 violent incidents per year
• U.S youths watch TV 2-4 hours per day, which exposes them to 2,000 acts of violence annually
• Children who watch TV 4 hours per day will see 8,000 to 16,000 murders and more than 100,000 acts of violence by the time they complete elementary school
• 57% of children’s television programs feature violent content
• Children playing violent video games are more likely to identify with violent characters and consider them role models
• In 2015, the violent video game industry generated $5.2 billion in revenue in the United States, $100 million per week
• 80-90% of movies contain some form of violence; 60% of television programs include violent content
• A child will view over 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18
• 92% of the top-selling video games in the U.S. feature violent content
• Video game sales in the U.S. reached $21.53 billion in 2020, a 400% growth in 5 years
• 80% of survey respondents believe media violence contributes to real-life violence