A Response to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman

by Nicole Plyler Fisk

Recently, I’ve seen Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s name appear on Facebook, with increasing frequency. A retired lieutenant colonel with an interest in the psychology of killing, he seems to have gained hero-status among my right wing, pro-gun Facebook acquaintances as the “voice of reason” in the gun control debate.

I decided to visit his Facebook page, and once I made it past the fan mail, I stumbled upon his December 19th post, which he introduces as his “most recent writing. Not yet published, but submitted in response to a request from Fox news.”

I find his Fox news commentary problematic, and I’ve responded, in bold, Natalie Leppard style (although I make no claims to be the badass that is Natalie Leppard):

So, the brutal, merciless, savage mass murderer of first-graders in Connecticut was another in a long line of avid video game players who turned their sick fantasy into our tragic reality. Surprised?

Surprised that Lanza played video games? Um . . . no.

Surprised that you, Lt. Col. Dave, are blaming video games, solely, and ignoring the more glaring issue? I’m referring, of course, to the fact that Lanza was so easily able to put down his video game controller and pick up the guns and high capacity magazines about which he was fantasizing.

Yes. I find your focus both surprising and disappointing.

I train military and law enforcement nation-wide, on the road almost 300 days a year for 15 years. I was an Army Ranger and a West Point Psych Professor. An author of many very successful books on this subject. This is the perspective that I come from…

Good for you.

Bottom line: From a military and law enforcement perspective, violent video games are “murder simulators” that train kids to kill. They act just like police and military simulators, providing conditioned responses, killing skills, and desensitization, except they are inflicted on children without the discipline of military and police training.

Research on the background of our juvenile mass murderers show they have one thing in common: they ALL dropped out of life and filled their lives with nothing but violent movies and violent video games. The sickest video games and the sickest movies are very very sick indeed. And the sick sick kids who immerse themselves in this “entertainment” are very sick indeed.

Jonesboro in the middle school, Columbine in the high school, Virginia Tech in the college, and now this generation gives us Sandy Hook as adults…

First: When I scanned and saw the word “sick,” I was hoping that you’d make a case for providing more accessible healthcare for the mentally ill. But, no. You didn’t go there.

Second: Have you talked to the US Army about this, Lt. Col. Dave? Maybe they should take down the video games they have developed and made available (free of charge) as recruiting tools.

See:America’s Army Video Game Blurs Virtual War” from NPR’s Morning Edition — although, trust me, I’ve been trying to get Scott Fisk (my husband) to stop playing this damn game for years.

Third, and thanks to Natalie Leppard for this one: The Virgina Tech shooter did not play violent video games according to the report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel:


From page 45: “[Cho] was enrolled in a Tae Kwon Do program for awhile, watched TV, and played video games like Sonic the Hedgehog. None of the video games were war games or had violent themes.”

From page 55: “Cho’s roommate never saw him play video games.”

The Sandy Hook massacre has been building for years. And there is much, much worse yet to come. (They are NOT “shootings” they are massacres … five died in the “Boston Massacre” which touched off the American Revolution … six murdered in the “St. Valentines Day Massacre” … many times more were murdered in Sandy Hook and we hide the reality from ourselves by calling it a “shooting” … “shooting” is what happens on the range … a “shooter” is the guy who got lucky during deer season! These are brutal mass murderers, committing savage massacres unlike anything seen in human history.)

I’ve heard people call the Sandy Hook tragedy both a “shooting” and a “massacre.” But, a “shooter” is one who shoots, whether he shoots deer or people.

And, again, you’re missing an obvious point, no? Perhaps the reason the Boston Massacre had fewer fatalities is owing to the fact that a musket and an assault weapon are . . . not the same.

Perhaps the reason the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre had fewer fatalities is owing to the fact that Capone and cronies targeted those seven (not six) mob associates specifically.

Are you really suggesting the  main difference between the Boston Massacre, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and the Sandy Hook Massacre is that the latter is complicated by the presence of violent video games? So, the Boston and St. Valentine’s Day Massacres would have had higher fatalities if video games were involved?


This has all been building up for years. Consider the stats on officers murdered in the line of duty in the US:

’08: 42
’09: 48
’10: 56
’11: 72

Anyone see a pattern here? Medical technology is holding DOWN the murder rate. The number of murdered cops should be going down every year.

You know what I see? A challenge to Wayne LaPierre’s argument that a “good guy” with a gun is the only way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun. Cops are good guys with guns, and they’re getting killed at an alarming rate.

These are criminals who practiced killing cops since they were six years old, every day of their lives, playing Grand Theft Auto, and now they are primed to kill cops as adults.

If we intentionally tried to raise a generation cocked and primed to kill, we could not have done a better job.

The answer? Parents MUST enforce the rating system. They MUST understand the danger. To do that, they must be informed by our media! And the schools must begin to educate their kids! Go to http://www.TakeTheChallengeNow.net to learn about a school TV-turnoff curriculum pioneered by Stanford Med School and demonstrated to cut school violence and bullying in half!

An “M” (mature, 17 and above ONLY) rated game is the same as an “X” rated movie! The people who manufacture the game say so. Their own industry says so! A “T” (teen) rating means no child under 13 should play the game. Period. It is a very tragic, horrendous situation when adults let their children immerse themselves in M rated games! Just like, sex, gambling, porn, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, guns, and automobiles: these are all things that adults must not give to kids!

Totally cool, as a parent, with enforcing the video game rating system. And, I’m glad to see you mention “guns” as things not to give to kids either, although I find it interesting that it’s so long-coming in your list, behind sex, gambling, etc. But, it’s there nonetheless, and actually made an appearance before automobiles. Hurrah!

Not all of the kids who play these sick games will become killers, but they will all be desensitized to human death and suffering, intentionally and realistically inflicted by themselves, for their own entertainment…

If YOUR child is one who commits a brutal crime, and YOU let them play these sick games, then the blood is on your hands too… (And YOU may well be the first one to die, as with this most recent incident.)

Or, you could more accurately say: if YOUR child is one who commits a brutal crime, and YOU took him to shooting ranges and made guns available, then the blood is on your hands too . . . (And YOU may well be the first one to die, as with this most recent incident.)

Adam Lanza’s mother bought two things: guns and video games. The guns are more directly responsible for her death, since a video game isn’t a murder weapon.

This is NOT business as usual in America. Never lose your sense of outrage that every kid in America has to do lock-down drills, practicing “hunkering down and hiding” for when kids come to kill them. Never lose your sense of outrage that all of our cops practice going in our schools and shooting our kids with “active shooter response plans.” These things are necessary, they work, they deter violent acts and they can save lives and hold down the body count when it does happen, but they are not normal. This is NOT just another day in America. This is NOT “business as usual” in America… Something is very, very wrong.

Oh, don’t worry. I’m outraged. You know something else that holds down the body count? Gun regulation.

And it is a world-wide phenomenon! Germany has had two mass murders in their high schools with body counts that beat Columbine. England had a massacre in the kindergarden class in Dunblain Scotland, tragically forecasting Sandy Hook. Canada had the Taber, Alberta school massacre. Finland has had three school massacres. In Norway the killer got on an island and killed all their kids. In China killers are going in the classrooms with knives and gutting and hacking the kids. In Belgium a sicko got in the day care center and hacked 12 babies in the cribs, dressed as the Joker [from] the Batman movie. (All those European gun laws made THEM real safe, eh?)

Violence is a world-wide phenomenon, Lt. Col. Dave. But here’s the difference. Those other countries you mention? Most responded with stricter gun regulation, which has made them safer.

See NPR’s report: “Around World, Massacres Have Spurred Gun Control.” Here are some excerpts, for your convenience:

On Dunblain:

“In March 1996, a 43-year-old man named Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school in this central Scotland town of 8,000 people and shot to death 16 kindergarten-age children and their teacher with four legally held handguns. In the weeks that followed, people in the town formed the Snowdrop campaign — named for the first flower of spring — to press for a ban on handguns. Within weeks, it had collected 750,000 signatures. By the next year, the ban had become law.”

On Canada, Germany and Finland:

“Gun laws also were strengthened in Canada after the 1989 slaying of 14 female engineering students in Montreal by a woman-hating gunman, and in Germany after a 19-year-old expelled student killed 16 people, including 12 teachers, in Erfurt in 2002.

Even gun-loving Finland — with 45 firearms for every 100 people — tightened its laws after two school shootings in 2007 and 2008, raising the minimum age for firearms ownership and giving police greater powers to make background checks on individuals applying for a gun license.”

And, I find it interesting that you fail to mention Australia’s 1996 massacre — perhaps because you’d have to mention the tighter gun regulation that followed, and the decade-long study of that regulation. You’d be forced to admit that:

“In Australia’s case, the change appears dramatic. There were a dozen mass shootings with at least five deaths in the country between 1981 and the Tasmania massacre; there have been none in the 16 years since.”

Finally . . . on China and Belgium:

In response to: “China killers are going in the classrooms with knives and gutting and hacking the kids.”

I assume you’re referring to the fact that on December 14th, a Chinese man wounded 22 schoolchildren in a knife attack. Key word: wounded. While horrific, none of the children were, in fact, “killed.” So, your attempt to use violent language, like “gutting and hacking,” to make the Dec. 14th attack in China seem as bad, or worse, than Sandy Hook is disingenuous. Granted, China has had a string of knife attacks since 2010 but none with a fatality list like Sandy Hook.

In response to: “In Belgium a sicko got in the day care center and hacked 12 babies in the cribs, dressed as the Joker [from] the Batman movie.”

There were three fatalities in the Dendermonde nursery attack, one adult and two children.

Horrible? Yes.

But, perhaps Noah Pozner’s mother, Veronique, says it best:

If Adam [Lanza] had shown up at Sandy Hook with a knife or a less powerful weapon, he may have harmed some people but it would not have been the mass carnage we saw . . . It takes nine months to create a human being. And it takes seconds for an AR-15 to take that away from the surface of this earth.”

And we though[t] it wouldn’t happen here!?

And you think it’s over now? The worst is yet to come. We will reap what we sow for a generation to come…. Until we stop teaching our kids to kill.

Lt. Col. Dave, I’m working hard for it to be “over” in the same way it is for Australia. And, maybe that will happen . . . if we’re wise enough to follow the examples that are right in front of us; if we’re generous enough to prioritize our children over our gun obsession; and if we’re brave enough to say “no” to the NRA and demand change.

Shame on you, Lt. Col. Dave. Man up and advocate for sensible gun regulation. I’ve linked the Brady Campaign web site for your convenience, and I’ll even do better than that. Here, I think, is where you would sign (under gun owners and NRA members): http://www.bradycampaign.org/toomanyvictims/invite/

P.S. Natalie Leppard, researcher extraordinaire, offers her two cents and a couple of articles for you (the PBS one mentions you by name):

Commercial in-home video games have only been around since the early 70s. The violent first person shooter games often blamed for massacres have only been around since the early 90s. There has not, however, been a significant rise in mass shootings since the 1980s. Further, video games are only vaguely associated with “feelings of hostility,” not definitively “violence” or “violent acts.”

And, mass shootings have been around for much longer, of course.

In 1966, Charles Whitman killed 16 and wounded 31 from the University of Austin clock tower.

In 1949, Howard Unruh killed 13 people while walking around his neighborhood in Camden, N.J.

In 1891, an elderly man took aim at a group of school children in NY, killing none.

In 1764, four gunmen shot and killed a teacher and 10 students at a school in PA.

Can’t blame any of those on video games . . .

Further, violent crimes by youths (the people who play video games 24/7) has decreased dramatically since 1980–with the rise of violent video games: http://childstats.gov/americaschildren/beh.asp

From PBS; Myth #5 has your name on it, Lt. Col. Dave: http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html