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Parents Television Council reveals gun violence in TV has increased since Sandy Hook shooting
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008) - photo by Herb Scribner
New research from the Parents Television Council found TV violence, especially gun violence, in primetime broadcast TV shows has increased over the last five years.

The PTC sent the Deseret News a statement about the research, which found that TV violence, which is marketed as appropriate for young viewers, has been on the rise in the years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, when 28 people were killed by a lone gunman.

The study examined two specific periods of time the month after the Newtown, Connecticut, shooting and a month following the Las Vegas shooting at a music festival in October 2017.

In 2017, about 61 percent of 287 episodes that ran in November included violence. Meanwhile, 39 percent had violence with guns.

All the shows were rated either TV-PG or TV-14.

The V rating, which signifies to people that the show will contain violence, was absent from about 1 in 4 of the shows.

But in 2013, about half of episodes in the month following the Newtown shooting contained violence, with only about a third having violence with guns.

This is on par with a 2017 study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center, which was an extension of a previous study that analyzed films from 1985-2012, finding that gun violence was higher in films rated PG-13 than in those rated R. The new study looked at films through 2015, and their research indicated that there has been no change in those three years.

The increasing trend of gun violence in PG-13 movies that we detected in 2012 continues unabated, said Dan Romer, research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and lead author of the study. We were interested in seeing if the trend might have stalled or even reversed. Our findings suggest that Hollywood continues to rely on gun violence as a prominent feature in its highly popular PG-13 action-oriented films.

PTC President Tim Winter said in a statement that children are receiving a heavy dose of violence almost every night.

On a nightly basis, the publicly owned airwaves are a toxic environment awash with depictions of violence and gun violence. Despite the spate of tragic events in recent years, violence and gun violence on primetime broadcast television have actually increased proportionally since the horrific shootings at Newtown five years ago, he said.

Winter said he agrees with President Donald Trump, who argued last week that media violence is hurting children, Forbes reported. Trumps statement came in the aftermath of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed and 14 more were injured.

Trump, in response, blamed graphic media.

We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed, Trump said, according to The Washington Post. "We have to do something about maybe what theyre seeing and how they're seeing it. And also video games. Im hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young peoples thoughts. You see these movies, theyre so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isnt involved, but killing is involved. And maybe they have to put a rating system for that. You get into a whole very complicated, very big deal but the fact is that you are having movies come out that are so violent with the killing and everything else that maybe that's another thing were going to have to discuss.

The PTCs Winter agreed with Trump, calling on Hollywood to eliminate graphic violence.

We wholeheartedly agree that kids can be impacted and harmed by exposure to violent media and decades of academic research backs it up. Our kids are inundated with a culture of violence, in part because of Hollywoods penchant for marketing violent films, TV shows and violent video games to kids, Winter said.

However, researchers and scholars disagree with Trump, according to The New York Times. Some scholars, when they hear the argument against violent media after mass shootings, feel that the evidence doesnt hold up.

In fact, Henry Jenkins, a professor at the University of Southern California, wrote for PBS that people who commit violent crimes tend to consume less media before their attacks.

Still, the Protest Family Rights Coalition released a video on Thursday that argued that movie filtering could help families and children avoid graphic violence, according to the Deseret News. The video filters a scene from Suicide Squad and shows how much violence could be eliminated from the scene.

Winter and the PTC agree, calling on Hollywood to make changes to the amount of graphic violence in Hollywood.

Vital reforms to protect kids from the toxic culture of media violence are urgently needed. In the meantime, we urge the entertainment industry to reduce even eliminate portrayals of graphic violence, and specifically, gun violence, Winter said.
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