Steve Chapman

That's a bit like looking for your keys where the light is good instead of where you dropped them. We don't know that Lanza suffered from mental illness. His developmental disorder, Asperger's syndrome, is not associated with violence. Lori Shery, president of the Asperger Syndrome Education Network, told The New York Times his disorder was about as pertinent to the crime as the color of his hair.

Even if Lanza had some serious psychiatric ailment, it may explain nothing. The vast majority of mentally ill people are not dangerous, and the vast majority of violent criminals are not mentally ill.

Federal law already bars sales of guns to anyone declared mentally incompetent by a court. Durbin wants to improve state reporting of mental health records, which makes perfect sense. But broadening the criteria for mental-health disqualification, as others suggest, would punish millions of people who pose no risk. It's important to protect the rest of us from the mentally ill, but equally vital to protect them from indiscriminate sanctions.

So desperate are some people to make sense of the slaughter that they resorted to the flimsiest of straw men. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., fretted about "the impact of violence in the entertainment culture."

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., took a more threatening tack: "Major corporations, including the video game industry, make billions on marketing and selling violent content to children. They have a responsibility to protect our children. If they do not, you can count on the Congress to take a more aggressive role."

Seriously? If violence in media causes violence in the real world, how do they explain that homicides are less than half as common today as they were in 1980, before video games took off?

Does anyone think the new film of "Anna Karenina" will cause a rash of train suicides? Has Rockefeller heard of the First Amendment?

He evidently thinks video gamers can't understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Funny thing: A lot of politicians have the same problem.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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