America’s call of duty on young men and gun violence

We the People of the Dis-United States of America have a problem on our hands. We have a well-trained, unregulated, networked militia we can’t wrap our minds around. With increasing regularity, it’s going bang!

It’s hard for parents to know if their son has gone down a 4chan rabbit-hole of darkness and despair. But you probably know what video games he plays. My son and his friends, for example, were all into Call of Duty — the most popular first-person shooting game. They’re just of a few of the 400 million who purchased and are playing globally. 

For my generation it was Doom, which was a pioneer in the first-person genre. I’m old school — Doom has a truth-in-advertising warning label in its very name that Call of Duty does not.

Here is the reality under the waterline of public perception: An average teenage boy has a knowledge of modern armaments that would make an arms dealer blush and has developed over thousands of hours of play a second-nature command of war tactics.

In contrast, my son and his friends also played — and excelled at — Guitar Hero, but the skill they developed was nontransferable to guitar reality.

I recently had the misfortune of seeing the first-person shooter footage from the Buffalo massacre. I wish I could unsee it. I witnessed a revenge porn of violence through the eyes of an indifferent, evil soul. 

Tops Friendly Maket
Tops Friendly Market grocery store where 10 Black people were murdered, by Payton Gendron.
AP/Carolyn Thompson

What I saw in reality was all too similar to the surreality of the gaming world. Just picture a close-quarters, high-capacity shootout with an enemy — with a couple caveats. The enemy in this case is unarmed. And most of the body count are women and children. What an evil coward: A grocery store is a “women and children first” shooting gallery.  

And when the police eventually show up, when this twisted thing is confronted by a man with a gun in his hand, he folds. Hands up. Game over. He’s a consequence of free-range nihilism.

What are we to do about such desensitized and cruel young men? Ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons? That’s not going to happen. Ban these games of violence? That’s not going to happen either. The Second and First Amendments are stumbling blocks to knee-jerk reactions. We need to exercise our commonsense judgment as citizens, parents, teachers and friends.

There seems to be an emerging consensus on raising the age limit to buy a weapon to 21 years of maturity. The idea of 18 made sense when we had a draft. Once upon a time, we got to vote, drink and die for our country at 18. Ronald Reagan decoupled the drinking age from this coming-of-age trifecta. What about a grand bargain that raises voting and buying a gun to 21 — which is the age when the human brain is fully developed? In this age of posturing and pandering, it’s unlikely.

So what can we actually do? How about parents doing a mental-health checkup on their kids? If your child is withdrawn and angry, plays these games endlessly and is fascinated with guns and violence, maybe it’s a good idea to look at your son’s search history or ask him his views on the world and his place in it. I’m sure the parents of these “shoot them up” demons saw well before the big event a prolonged turn to the dark side. 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Law enforcement officers block off the entrance to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where innocent students lost their lives.
AP/Wilfredo Lee

Parents need to show some oversight of those living under their roof. While the law allows a gun purchase at 18, it does not supersede a parent’s property right. It’s your castle, not his. Vigilant parenting is our best, first line of defense.

And let’s not forget there’s a limit to the “snitches get stitches” man code. You owe it to your old friend, your teachers and classmates, your fellow humans — your own soul — never to be complicit in this type of evil.

We all know that growing up is hard to do. And that high school is the front line of boys-to-men angst. The Parkland High School shooter could purchase a gun because his numerous physical public expressions of anti-social behavior were never put in the system. Our fixation with restorative justice is literally killing our kids. It incentivizes and enables sociopaths.

Just look at this Los Angeles villain who went full Grand Theft Auto on a mother and child. Months prior, he got a slap on the hand for putting a roofie in a young girl’s drink. That could be your daughter or sister. Then the 16-year-old steals a car and intentionally runs over a mother and baby. This could be your wife and son. In District Attorney George Gascón’s LA, this second-time loser gets a juvenile-camp slap on the other hand and the prospect of getting his case sealed.

What do you think the next violent iteration of such a young man will be? In a couple of years, he will be old enough to buy a gun. This is madness — and the unintended but bloody consequences ought to be clear to us all by now. And it’s not born of the Second Amendment or the First. It’s a casualty of the death of common sense.

Guy Shepherd is publisher of Planned Man.

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