Whitman had a brain tumor; what’s the explanation for this guy?

shooting

After ex-Marine Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother, then went to the top of that tower at the University of Texas and shot 15 people dead and wounded 31 others in 1966, he was shot and killed by police. And the autopsy found he had a brain tumor.

So far we have no such pat answers for why Stephen Paddock killed at least 58 people and wounded hundreds, firing from his Las Vegas hotel room. So far, he has no criminal record or known association with a terrorist group. His family is baffled.

The only “explanation” we have so far is that he is one more guy with a penchant for killing and a bunch of guns he shouldn’t have had.

The political reaction has already started, with Republicans gathering for a moment of silence and Democrats saying no, they won’t be silent this time. I suppose over the next couple of days we’ll see the usual pattern of people flocking to stores to buy more guns. Or maybe not, since no one expects this president or this Congress to do anything to restrict the flow of guns or ammunition. And doing so for personal protection in this context makes less sense than usual: what good would another handgun be against a guy firing automatic weapons from cover 32 stories up?

I have no explanations or comforting thoughts to offer at the moment; I just though y’all might be interested in discussing it…

 

88 thoughts on “Whitman had a brain tumor; what’s the explanation for this guy?

  1. Bryan Caskey

    The whole thing is so different than all the other mass shootings.

    1. Automatic weapon. (These are REALLY hard to get. Not impossible, but virtually impossible.) You have to go through a ton of registration, background checks with the Feds, and then you have to have mid-five figures worth of money to spend on one. Trust me on this, non-gun people.

    2. Old guy. Sixty-something, right? I mean, young kids are stupid and can get turned by propaganda, but old guys are typically limited to yelling at the kids to get off their lawn. Weird.

    3. Methodical. This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. Renting a room, getting all that weaponry together (in whatever form he did) took time. This wasn’t some angry guy lashing out. It was planned.

    It’s just weird. You’re right in comparing it to the UT shooting. It’s the UT shooting on steroids, with meticulous planning and by someone who doesn’t really fit the profile. It’s just so out of the pattern.

    Hopefully, some answers as to the details fill in some of the blanks and help us make sense of this to the extent possible.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      As to No. 2…

      First thing I heard about this was this morning, after my elliptical workout (first day at 40 minutes!).

      My wife told me there was this mass shooting in Las Vegas, and it was a guy OUR AGE.

      The second shock was that she told me he had killed 50 people, which immediately made me think of full auto…

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        During my workout, I was watching an episode from the 3rd season of “The Wire.” There were a couple of shootings during the episode.

        This makes Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale look like amateurs…

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It’s the episode where Avon is just out of prison, and he’s all worked up that another outfit is controlling one of his corners.

          Stringer TRIES to explain to him that it’s just business, and that there’s far more money to be made by swearing off violence and going with the flow.

          Avon’s not having it. And I’m all like, “Listen to STRING, B!”

          It’s weird how a show that good can cause you to care that a drug kingpin isn’t going about his business in the right way…

          Reply
    2. Claus2

      1. It hasn’t been confirmed that he had a fully automatic weapon, what it sounds like now is he had a hand cranked device that you clamp onto the trigger guard and use it like a gattling gun. I had one back in the 70’s, I believe it was called an Activator, on a 10 round tube fed, semi-automatic .22. These things have been around for decades and this is the first time I’m aware of one being used in a mass shooting… will they now be outlawed?

      2. I’m not 60 and I have yelled at kids to get off my lawn. It’s a lawn, not a shortcut for your bikes.

      I don’t know how much planning was involved, go to Las Vegas, find a hotel across from a large concert event, request and book a room facing the event, go down to the car with a luggage dolly and move everything up to your room. Done.

      Reply
    3. Claus2

      1. Depends… I can have a machinist mill down (or go at one with a $2.00 file from the hardware store) a trigger sear for about $10, stamp it with a serial number, fill out an ATF Form 1, send in my $200, wait about a year (used to be about 45 days pre-Obama) and get my tax stamp in the mail and be allowed to shoot full automatic. You don’t necessarily need to buy an M-16 or other military designed weapon… those are bragging rights for collectors. The last true M-16 I saw sell sold for $26,000… you could make an ATF approved clone for under $1500.

      Reply
      1. Bryan Caskey

        Pretty sure it’s illegal to modify a sear and having a non-registered full auto sear is illegal, right? Also, it’s not child’s play to modify a regular sear to a full-auto sear. Also, don’t you have to modify the lower receiver to accept the newly modified sear? I don’t do gun machining, I just shoot them, but this seems like it would also have to happen.

        In any event, what you’ve described takes work…lots of work. It’s also not as simple as “go at one with a $2.00 file from the hardware store“. You have to have some know-how. And if you don’t do it perfectly, then you’ve got a fairly unreliable firearm. If it turns out that this shooter is not a gun guy, then there’s no way he did anything like that himself.

        Reply
        1. Bryan Caskey

          “Pretty sure it’s illegal to modify a sear and having a non-registered full auto sear is illegal, right?”

          Even if it’s not illegal to possess a homemade full-auto sear, I still wouldn’t want to have to explain it to an AUSA. But that’s just me, I’m sort of a rule follower. :)

          Reply
        2. Richard

          Yes it is illegal, but if you fill out the appropriate paperwork it’s legal as long as you can pass the background check. If you have a tax stamp for it, it’s no problem. No different than a short barrel rifle, a suppressor, etc… I know people who have made their own silencers, as long as the manufacturer (Hillary Clinton Firearms) and Serial Number stamped or engraved onto the silencer you can pump out as many as you want… as long as you register each one.

          Actually it is as simple as using a $2.00 file in some cases. It’s not difficult at all, a friend of mine turned a .22 rifle into a fully automatic one by filing down the sear. The gun got destroyed shortly after once his dad found out what he did. All you typically have to do on older semi-automatics is file down the catch on the sear… no catch, the gun will continue to cycle. I believe manufacturer’s have made it a little more difficult to do now. Even though I have had double fires before when the situation was just right for it to happen. It scares the hell out of you.

          Want to see something cool, this guy paid $1200 in tax stamps to have six .50 cal. machine guns installed in his P-51. I know the guys who own this restoration company.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=23&v=niJ82YCiuYU

          Some will say “why does he need that”… because he can and it’s 100% legal.

          Reply
    4. bud

      Trust me on this, non-gun people.
      -Bryan

      And you’ve accused me of being arrogant. Sorry Bryan but no I don’t trust you on this. A week ago maybe but this just comes across as condescending BS. Guns have become a sort of religion in this country. Until the culture changes we’ll continue to see 20k gun deaths per year compared to 20 in places like Japan. No law that could ever pass will make much of a difference. (Seriously though why make it easier to get a silencer). Freedom has a price. If this is the price we’re willing to bear in order to have 300 million guns in circulation well so be it. But don’t tell me this makes me and my family safer. That’s just nonsense.

      Reply
      1. Bryan Caskey

        Okay…fine. Don’t trust me. Go out and do your own independent research on what you have to do to purchase an NFA weapon. I’ve never attempted to do so, but as I understand it, the steps are as follows:

        Let’s say you want to legally purchase a Browning Automatic Rifle or BAR, as it’s commonly known. It’s a fully automatic rifle that shoots the .30-06 round.

        Step One: (HAVE LOTS OF MONEY YOU DON’T REALLY NEED) You have to find a NFA dealer with a special class three license who can sell you this item. Then, you have to buy it from him. That will cost you roughly $20,000 to $35,000 depending on various factors. So you give the dealer your money, and he gives you….a bunch of forms to fill out.

        Step Two: (DO LOTS OF PAPERWORK) While the dealer has all your money, he’s also holding the BAR, because you have to fill out forms.

        The first form you fill out is ATF Form 4. Oh, with that completed form, you also have to submit two sets of fingerprint cards and two sets of passport style photos. You can get the photos done at Walgreens, but you’ll probably need to go to a law enforcement entity to get the fingerprinting done.

        Then you fill out 5330.20. It’s another ATF form.

        Once you get all that done, you have to get a Chief Law Enforcement Officer to sign off on your form. That could be a Chief of Police, County Sheriff, or a Judge. Good luck with that.

        Cut a check for $200 to the ATF for the ATF “tax stamp”. This is comparatively pretty easy if you’ve done all the above.

        Step Three: (WAIT) Yeah, now that you’ve done all that, and gotten all your paperwork filled out, fingerprints, and got Leon Lott to sign it, you mail it all to the ATF. As you might have guessed, the ATF doesn’t approve these applications the same day. Be prepared to wait more than six months, but hopefully less than a year.

        Step Four: (ACQUIRE YOUR PURCHASE) Congrats, the ATF approved your forms. You can take your approved forms to the dealer and he’ll actually then transfer the firearm to you.

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          And in Paddock’s case, he:

          — Had all the money he needed. He was a millionaire.

          — Had all the time in the world, since he didn’t work for a living.

          So to him, these obstacles weren’t obstacles at all…

          Reply
        2. Claus2

          Those I know with fully automatics weapons run them through a Trust, no visit to Leon Lott, no mailing it to the ATF. On mine I could hand write Brad’s name on to the Trustee page and he could legally handle anything I have on my gun Trust. I think I paid $55 through a lawyer downtown to printout the pages for me.

          Reply
      2. Claus2

        bud do you know what a “silencer” is? I don’t think you do, because it’s not Hollywood silent, it’s more like 10 decibels below blowing your eardrums out quiet. If someone is using a high power rifle or pistol with one, you and everyone else around you will know it. The only Hollywood silent suppressor I’ve been around was a .22LR on a bolt action that was shooting subsonic rounds. There are pellet guns (which are also silent) more powerful than this combination. You might want to spend some time on YouTube researching “silencers”.

        Reply
          1. Claus2

            Have you ever been around an unsupressed .50 cal.? I had a Barrett 99 for a while and at the range it’d blow stuff off the table next to mine. That was a fun rifle but useless unless you’re shooting past 1000 yards. They’re about as useful as a full automatic… safe queen that you take out to show people then put it back in the safe.

            Suppressed it’s still loud. This video doesn’t do it justice, but the bottom one does.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAgU7TfG5fU

            vs

            Reply
    5. Rose

      “2. Old guy. Sixty-something, right? I mean, young kids are stupid and can get turned by propaganda, but old guys are typically limited to yelling at the kids to get off their lawn. Weird.”

      In Abbeville in 2003, the old white guy and his son killed two police officers in a “lawn” dispute:
      https://tinyurl.com/y8f46qum

      Reply
  2. Claus2

    Well for one, it’s coming out he was an anti-Trump, left-wing extremist.

    And what better revenge by one of those nutjobs than to shoot up a large gathering of the exactly type of people he hates?

    Reply
    1. Jim Cross

      Is this the story from 4chan and Gateway Pundit that identified the shooter as Geary Danley? Because it appears that this was a mis-identification based on conflating Geary Danley’s name with that of the woman the police were seeking, Marilou Danley. The police have dismissed her as a suspect.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, I think that’s what this is…

        What a bizarre world we live in now. And this was the same day as the initially false reports of Tom Petty’s death…

        Reply
  3. Dave Crockett

    I saw an extensive (perhaps too extensive) interview with Paddock’s brother this morning and from everything he said and everything else I’ve seen from law enforcement interviews, Stephen was a pretty normal, 60-ish, retired fellow liked to play video poker in Vegas occasionally and who gave absolutely no indication that he was inclined to this kind of action. In short, nothing in his demeanor or background would have given any clues or reason to deny him access to a fully automatic weapon and hundreds upon hundreds of rounds of ammunition legally.

    So why does anyone need such an arsenal? Self-protection? Entertainment? Someone please remind me why I/we should support an interpretation of the Second Amendment that guarantees that a fellow like Paddock could obtain such weaponry.

    Reply
    1. Claus2

      What he took to the room would be called a relaxing afternoon at the range by some I know. There are no laws against the number of guns or ammo a person can own, just as there are no laws limiting the number of vehicles a person can own to plow through crowds.

      Reply
        1. Mark Stewart

          I never understood why gun owners accept three and five bullet/shell restrictions for hunting; but must have 30 round speed load magazines for assault rifles. It just doesn’t gel for me. It might be “fun” at a target range to have the bigger magazine – but so is driving 100 on the interstate.

          Anyway, I hope the gun-gloat is starting to fade in some as regards assault weapons. They are for war; not for play. The consequences have been too great to just pretend these aren’t killing machines.

          Reply
          1. Claus2

            Let’s play a game, if you had to defend yourself and your family for whatever reason. What would you rather have… a single shot rifle, or a semi-automatic rifle with a 30 round magazine? Or a third option, nothing and just lay down and wait for whatever happens to happen?

            I remember the 1980’s when vehicle speedometers went all the way up to 85 mph. Who wants to go back to those days?

            The gun buying panic ended on November 9, 2016.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’ve only ever known one person who used a firearm to defend his home. It was a friend of mine in high school. There was just him and his mom, so he was the man of the house. There was an intruder, and he grabbed his bolt-action .22, flipped on the lights and aimed at the intruder. While they were frozen, standing there, he couldn’t resist his curiosity and clicked back the bolt to see if the rifle was loaded.

              It wasn’t.

              Fortunately, he had a pretty good poker face. As I recall, it ended OK. I think the intruder ran away…

              Reply
              1. Claus2

                Most people won’t, just like most law enforcement officers will never fire their weapon at someone. But… if you need it, what do you want?

                Reply
                1. Richard

                  “Well, the best thing for self-defense is a shotgun. I’m assuming close-quarters here, else it’s unlikely to be truly self-defense…”

                  Because there’s nothing like blasting a basketball sized holes in your walls. Two layers of sheetrock will not stop most shotgun blasts. Perhaps you were thinking BB gun.

            2. Bryan Caskey

              “Let’s play a game, if you had to defend yourself and your family for whatever reason. What would you rather have…”

              My answer to questions like this are: The best choice is whatever firearm you are most proficient with and comfortable operating.

              Reply
              1. Claus2

                Ah, the lawyer twists the rules of the game… but I agree with what he says. So let’s say you’re equally proficient in all three.

                Reply
                1. Bryan Caskey

                  I didn’t change the rules. I answered the question. :)

                  Sure, given those three choices, obviously everyone would take the firearm with the capacity to fire more than once.

                  In my own situation (free of the constraints of your hypothetical), I wouldn’t use a semi-auto rifle. I’m vastly more proficient with a certain semi-auto shotgun that I use all the time.

                2. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yep. Especially at close quarters.

                  Like Sean Connery in “Outland,” the space version of “High Noon.”

                  No ray guns. Just sawed-off shotguns, the most practical weapons in the close quarters of an enclosed mining colony on one of Jupiter’s moons.

                  I don’t suppose they’d work so well out in the vacuum, but they’re highly effective in the oxygen-rich indoors…

    2. Bart Rogers

      I watched the interview as well. After a couple of questions, what more could the brother say to add to the conversation? His brother shot and killed 58 people – so far that is the total dead and wounded over 200. Once the investigation is completed, an autopsy performed, and any other procedure necessary to get an answer or as much of an answer as possible, then maybe we will know more. Until then, speculation and debate will fill the airwaves.

      Why does anyone need such an arsenal? If someone is a serious gun collector and is responsible, maybe. I had a friend who was a serious collector and took his collection to shows all over the states. But, he would never, as far as I know, pull a gun on anyone to do harm. He simply liked collecting guns and when he died, his collection was very valuable. He had several one of a kinds, especially some of the old West pistols and rifles.

      I agree with Bryan, he had to have bought them from someone who knew what they were doing, not an amateur with a $2.00 file.

      Reply
      1. Claus2

        I didn’t realize there were so many professional gunsmiths on this blog. Perhaps they’d like to explain the difference between a semi-automatic sear and a fully automatic sear.

        Reply
        1. Bart Rogers

          I don’t have to explain either one to you or anyone else since it is obvious you know enough for all of us who aren’t professional gunsmiths. You were the one who made the comment about a $2 file, not me. I didn’t profess to be a gunsmith. And in the end, you, me and everyone else who concluded he had modified the guns were wrong. All he had to do was buy several “bump stocks” and replace the factory stock to achieve the same results. Surprised you didn’t come up with that before it was revealed and crow about it to the uninformed.

          Reply
          1. Claus2

            You forget the fact that when I made that comment everyone was screaming about how he was firing automatic weapons. I’ve shot a bump stock rifle, I just didn’t think anyone actually bought those POS stocks.

            Reply
  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    “(perhaps too extensive”

    Yeah, we’re in that weird zone where broadcast people go for continuous coverage, and they put them on and let them talk without limit — which means you get a lot of speculation and inaccuracies and little helpful information.

    NPR today was interrupting all normal programming for this, and it became all about the statement from the president, and the upcoming statement from the president, and that’s when you know that everyone’s lost perspective on the event…

    Reply
  5. Burl Burlingame

    Full auto is legal in Nevada.

    And just because it’s not that easy to obtain a legal automatic weapon, doesn’t mean it’s difficult to get an illegal automatic weapon.

    Reply
  6. Scout

    When I heard the reports I remembered the Texas shooting and seriously wondered about a brain tumor too. I assume they will do an autopsy?

    Reply
        1. Claus2

          Because one nutjob uses it to kill people? When someone plows their Camry into a crowd do we then take away all Camry’s? Or is it just because it’s something that you don’t own or approve of? The vast majority of the people who own one of these stocks won’t kill people with it, same as Camry owners.

          Reply
            1. Claus2

              More people are killed by Camry’s than AR-15’s. But to appease you, more people are killed with hunting rifles than AR-15’s… so should we ban hunting rifles?

              Reply
  7. Harry Harris

    The explanation for “this guy” matters much less to me than so many of us got to this point, and how we can diminish the likelihood of more such tragedies. When a society worships and is fascinated by deadly violence as we do, the outlook is dire. Do we only value the lives of those in our group? Does our public discussion reflect an embrace of violence and killing as an acceptable option for whatever bothers us? Why do we have a “gun culture” that looks the other way on weapons that have no purpose in legal hunting or personal safety? Can we control access to the deadliest of weapons in a political atmosphere that doesn’t even allow research on gun deaths or questioning of one’s “right to carry.” Whatever might trigger any person to do something so horrific may not be nearly as important as preventing the ability to do so. There will always be “crazy people.” I think our violent culture is producing too many of them.

    Reply
  8. Doug Ross

    We have a gun culture because we have a war culture. The one place we could actually legally start limiting the use of weapons would be to shrink the size of our military.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      WHAT?!?!?

      Now, THAT’S a reach.

      We have a gun culture for the absolute opposite reason: because of the cult of the radically isolated individual, who must be an army unto himself, ready to do battle with the big, bad government if it ever dares to encroach on what he imagines to be his sacred prerogatives.

      A soldier or a marine has a rifle — A rifle, with whom he is trained to have a “relationship.” Take care of your rifle and your rifle will take care of you. He learns to disassemble and reassemble that one weapon blindfolded.

      That rifle is something the soldier is trained to use when and where he is ordered to use it, acting in concert as part of a large, disciplined unit.

      Your more dangerous gun nuts have so many guns they probably lack familiarity with most of them. I find myself wondering whether this Paddock guy had even fired most of them. For someone like that, acquiring firearms is a mania, a fetish, something completely devoid of a military context or any other socially useful purpose.

      A soldier serves his country, his society. A guy like Paddock acquires all those guns in order to rend, tear and destroy.

      I suppose it’s all the same to you — that’s all soldiers are is destroyers, right?

      But let’s not get into it now. I still have two more episodes of the Vietnam thing to post about. We’ll argue enough there…

      Reply
          1. Doug Ross

            I’ll see your Eisenhower and raise you every general we’ve seen in the Vietnam series so far. Napalm and bombs don’t fall out of the sky without someone at the top saying to do it.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Actually, after Eisenhower, generals didn’t have much say on such things. If you want to blame LBJ, blame LBJ. From his time on, whether bombs fell pretty much depended on the White House.

              Which is not great. If you leave such decisions to field commanders, you’re more likely to win. But modern communications give Washington the ability to call the shots (literally), so they do…

              Reply
      1. Doug Ross

        ” I find myself wondering whether this Paddock guy had even fired most of them. ”

        Well, now that we know he used something called a “bump stock” to modify his semi-automatic rifles to fire at close to automatic rate, can you at least agree that he likely had fired the weapons he chose to use before yesterday? It’s unlikely he modified the guns and then just took them out for a test run for the first time.

        Reply
        1. Claus2

          You can bump fire without a bump stock, you just loosen your grip on your trigger hand and pull the rifle forward with your forearm hand. Does the exact same thing.

          Reply
  9. Doug Ross

    Here’s an idea: if an automatic weapon is used to commit a crime, the law enforcement person who signed off on the purchase loses his job.

    Even as a libertarian, I don’t understand the purpose or need for someone to own a weapon that requires that much bureaucracy to obtain. But if someone wants to own one, I guess they have some reason for it. Ego, most likely. Or compensating.

    Reply
    1. Claus2

      “Here’s an idea: if an automatic weapon is used to commit a crime, the law enforcement person who signed off on the purchase loses his job. ”

      What if say, I buy it through a firearm trust, which doesn’t require a law enforcement background check because the firearm isn’t owned by a person, it’s owned by a trust. $55 from most any lawyer in town who prints out the boilerplate legal paperwork.

      Reply
    1. Claus2

      So are Superbowl tickets.

      Automatic weapons have never been hard to get, they’re just exepnsive if you want a manufacturer produced one, and as long as you are willing to wait for the ATF to approve you owning one.

      Reply
  10. Bart Rogers

    Just out of curiosity, has anyone on this blog taken a closer look at some of the video games available to anyone with the money to purchase one? Just the commercials on television are troublesome enough and I will stand firm against anyone who tries to defend the violence in the video games and that it does not have an impact on the young minds that play them. They glorify death, destruction, gore, and violence. While some may consider them harmless, I have no doubt that for the 100 that play the games, 90 may not be influenced, there are 9 who are and at least 1 who would be willing to actually do what is played out on the game video if the opportunity was presented.

    We who are older grew up with toy pistols and guns that looked realistic. Cap pistols were a big thing and the smell of the popped cap was acrid and for me, stunk up the place. We played war games along with what is now not PC, Cowboys and Indians. That was the culture a few decades ago. It was fun and entertaining to build forts and say out loud, “bang, bang, bang, you are dead”. The difference is that for everyone I knew, we knew they were games and nothing more. Finish the game, go home, eat supper, do homework, and go to bed. It was unrealistic unlike the video games and the headsets that can place the player inside the game that are on the market now.

    Won’t speculate about the NV killer because the investigation has not been completed and probably won’t be for some time. All I can surmise at this point is to agree with an article in the NYT that it took a lot of time and preparation for what he did. Video surveillance was set up outside his room and inside as well. He took the time to bring the weapons to his room apparently in individual suitcases, one or two at a time over a period of 3 days. He set up tripods to account for the kickback of the bump stocks and apparently didn’t target any individual but the entire audience at random. Based on the article, he purchased the weapons over a period of time in different locations, some at gun shows. Whether he was a sympathizer of ISIS or any other radical group is still unknown. He very well could just be bat$h!t crazy and was able to keep it covered up. Until we are informed for certain, all we can do is speculate and for some, blame the right, left, terrorists, NRA, Republicans, Democrats, and maybe someone will tie him into a government conspiracy. Who knows, one individual on this blog believes GWB was aware that 9/11 was going to take place and didn’t do anything about it.

    Reply
    1. Claus2

      The video game developers put warning stickers on the packaging… just like they do for cigarettes. It’ protects everyone.

      Kids used to play with sticks and barrel hoops too.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yeah, those warning work like magic, too, don’t they?

        Isn’t it great how since those warnings went onto cigarettes and bottles of booze, NO ONE has died of lung cancer or from being hit by a drunk driver?…

        Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Why not? I’ve spent plenty of time — way too much — playing them myself.

        At some point in the last year or so, probably in straightening up my home office, I’ve misplaced my copy of Call of Duty: World at War.

        Probably just as well…

        Reply
    2. Doug Ross

      Bart,

      I am less sure about the impact of the video games. The 1% number you estimate is way too high. For example, one version of Call of Duty sold 31 million copies. That would suggest 310,000 potential murderers out there created by that game alone. Maybe, maybe, the number is 31.. or more likely 3.1 for whom there can be a direct link between violent games and actual murderous intent. I’m more willing to believe it is life experiences combined with mental illness that is more responsible.

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        It’s interesting to me that Doug is convinced of the dehumanizing effect of U.S. soldiers being taught to think of the enemy as “gooks” in Vietnam, but he’s doubtful about the ability of this kind of sophisticated, systematic conditioning to engender violent behavior.

        And as I said, the comparison is relevant — because these games do the same thing that U.S. military training has done since a little before Vietnam — condition soldiers to shoot to kill instantly and accurately, without pausing to think.

        Before that, through the entire history of firearms, most soldiers had either not fired their weapons in combat, or had deliberately aimed to miss. The conditioning, the reflexive training, changed that…

        Reply
        1. Claus2

          Should a soldier think of the enemy soldier as a father. brother, son, husband, etc… as he is taking incoming rounds? You see people around you getting shot, I don’t think you care if the person shooting is even human.

          That statistic is a little misleading because I recently read that 70% of Army soldiers in recent wars aren’t even combat troops and their M-16, if even issued one, is nothing more than a heavy piece of steel they’re required to carry around. They supply, mess, logistics, etc… personnel.

          Reply
      2. Bart Rogers

        Okay, no problem with your numbers over mine. I was engaging in something I normally do not do, speculate. Didn’t do any research but just went with what I witness on television when the never ending ads come on for the games and applied the logic of exposure to come up with my 1%. On one point, we can agree to disagree when it comes to using violence associated with video games. The number of articles I have read over the years lead me to believe that your comment about life experiences and mental illness affects a larger number than we realize. The number of young children and teens who live in less than ideal conditions, are exposed to the never ending ads about how great life can be if only they buy a certain product, wear certain clothes, and other enticements for products offering a better life and they cannot afford to buy the products IMHO does lead to a potential anger build-up and the release is to engage in playing the violent video games. To add to the internalized anger is the never ending news cycles about racism, police brutality, and so many social and political issues we were never exposed to when we were the same age – or at least in my age group.

        Another indicator for me is when I read the comments in the NYT and WaPo after news reports and articles are written about the shootings in Sandy Hook, LV, Tampa, and the events in Charlottesville. Understand many don’t bother but for me, it gives me a sense of the pulse of what each side is about and I have found that the anger on both sides is palpable. I didn’t believe Trump would win but I believed he would do much better than the polls indicated. I was mildly surprised when he won but not shocked.

        If anyone is interested, WaPo has an opinion piece in today’s issue written by Leah Libresco. The title is “I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.” The comments section didn’t agree with her conclusion by almost 99% and they once again confirmed my belief that the comments section is a good indicator of how one side or the other views an issue and how passionate and all too often very emotional about it.

        Reply
    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      With me, it wasn’t “bang, bang, bang, you are dead.” I just had to say “Bang, you’re dead!” I always got ’em on the first shot, although this obvious fact was often disputed.

      But seriously, folks….

      I’ve posted in the past about First-Person Shooter games, and the way they can condition a young person to taking aim and shooting to kill without stopping to think. What those games can do is the same thing the military learned to do in training recruits to fire more effectively. Consequently — and here I go citing Grossman’s book, On Killing, again — we went from few soldiers firing their weapons and even fewer firing to kill in WWII to a much greater kill rate in Vietnam (which in turn likely led to more PTSD).

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The fascinating — and chilling — thing is the trouble Call of Duty goes to in order to make you feel better about shooting to kill without hesitation. On both scenarios on the one such game I’ve played — the WWII version — you start out by being a helpless witness to atrocities committed by the enemy. As I wrote before about this:

        Second, the emotional manipulation, which was stunning. There are two story lines: In one, you are a U.S. Marine named Miller, fighting your way across the Pacific. In the other, you are a Red Army soldier. The designers of the game came up with their own way of overcoming any reluctance the player might have to shooting the enemy. The Marine scenario begins with Miller being a prisoner of the Japanese. As Miller, you watch the Japanese torture and kill your buddy, before one of them moves toward you with a knife, prepared to serve you in the same way — before he is stopped by the commandos who have come to rescue you. Your rescuers hand you a weapon, and by this point, you’re expected to know what to do with it.

        In the start of the Russian scenario, you are lying still among dead and dying comrades in Stalingrad. As you lie there (the game won’t let you move at first), you watch German soldiers step around you, casually shooting the wounded as you watch helplessly. Somehow they overlook you. As the enemy moves away, a grizzled Red Army sergeant who was also playing dead whispers to you to follow him, and he will show you how to get your vengeance on the fascists, who, as he keeps reminding you, are raping your homeland. He hands you a sniper rifle…

        Creepy, huh?

        Reply
        1. Claus2

          Then you’re really not going to like Grand Theft Auto where you get points by running over prostitutes and drug dealers with your car.

          Reply
      2. Claus2

        They have to learn to shoot in video games, if they don’t they lose the game… and if they make a PopTart into the shape of a pistol at school they get expelled.

        Reply

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