More on guns… There was a really interesting paper titled “Gun Violence Trends in Movies” recently published in Pediatrics.
This study examined the presence of gun related violence in top grossing major motion pictures and concluded that gun violence in films has grown substantially. Not a huge surprise but what was interesting is that the rate of growth in PG-13 (age 13+) films outpaced both PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) and R (age 17+) rated films. So much so, that in recent years the study found that there is actually more gun violence in PG-13 then in R rated movies. Why is this important?
The article also does a nice job of summarizing relevant research that outlines why this might be bad. The authors drew two conclusions from this research that can be outlined to some extant with these statements: 1. exposure to violence can lead to increased aggressive attitudes and behavior and 2. exposure to guns independent of violent behavior can lead to increased aggression. The authors went on to describe the combined gun violence in PG-13 movies as a “double whammy” that may be contributing to increased aggressive behavior in youth. I’ll confess that increased aggressive behavior due to simply being exposed to a gun (the “weapons effect”) was news to me.
Other research has shown that exposure to things like smoking and drinking in movies increases engagement in those activities among youth and at least for smoking there is a push by some public health advocates to assign an R rating to movies when smoking is present. Maybe an R rating should also be considered for movies that contain some lower threshold level of gun violence?