Violence, crime and our children

Few days go by without another news story about youths and gun violence, or teens involved in crime.

Last week, some readers might have noticed a tiny story on page 5 of the newspaper under the headline: "PG-13 gun violence rivals that of R movies, study says."

The gist of the story, carried by the Associated Press, was that gun violence had increased so much in PG films in recent decades that it now sometimes exceeds gun violence in even R-rated films.

Ohio State University and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed gun violence in top-grossing movies, finding the frequency of gun violence had more than tripled in PG-13 films since 1985.

And that PG-13 violence, since 2009, had outpaced that in movies teens theoretically can't see without an accompanying adult.

The story appeared exactly one week after a local story about a police roundup of 32 people that Chattanooga officials called the "worst of the worst" Chattanooga criminals on charges relating to guns and drugs. Though the persons arrested were all adults, authorities implied the roundup was in no short measure a response to the city's ballooning youth shootings throughout 2013. The arrests may be a good beginning. But it's just a beginning.

Chattanooga is not alone in seeing increased youth crime. On Wednesday, Catoosa County, Ga., Sheriff Gary Sisk said three teens attempted to burglarize a home near Ringgold that they thought was vacant, but the resident was there. He shot and killed a 17-year-old boy. Another 16-year-old boy and the 18-year-old girl who was waiting in a pickup truck nearby got away but were later taken into custody.

There is no easy answer for growing youth violence or quelling youth crime. Yes, parents play a role, and schools play a role. But so does our culture when gun violence is a driver in nearly every movie and nearly every video game made.

How do we tell our kids that guns aren't the answer to their problems when that's what they see play out in their leisure time? How do we tell our kids that crime doesn't pay and isn't glamorous as they speed through the video game "Grand Theft Auto", which is now in its 5th version and grossed $1 billion within just three days of its recent release?

As for movies, critics of the ratings system have long said the raters place too much emphasis on sexuality and too little on violence. Frankly, it wouldn't appear that raters place too much emphasis on anything except how much money the movies will gross and the makers will profit.

It isn't as though these are new issues. It's apparently just that we've grown desensitized now even to violence in our hometown cultures, not just on the movie and computer screens.

Readers sometimes chastise the paper for "sensationalizing" crime. But it's hard to imagine how we could blow the shame and pain of children involved in crimes - or shooting at each other - out of proportion. One is too many, let alone the scores involved in this year's more than the 100 shootings here - most involving young people.

Maybe we just want to bury our heads and hope the problems go away on their own.