Jay Lenkersdorfer

About ten years ago, while visiting my sister and her family in Arizona, I became acquainted with a computer game where characters move about an artificial world on your computer screen trying to kill the other characters. Perhaps because I don’t play games like this, my guy was always the first one to die, forcing me to sit bored while the other players moved about the game trying not to get killed.

Sadly, because my nephew was so skilled at this game, he moved about this virtual reality killing each of the other characters with impunity. It was four against one but the one was a wiz at computer games and we never had a chance. We quickly made up some rules that required our nephew to let us live in the game for at least one minute after which he would slaughter us.

Video games today are incredibly violent, usually programed in a way that look like real world environments. One common factor in today’s video games is that these characters carry weapons and use them against other game players.

The graphics used in these games are so realistic that you could easily forget that what you are playing is just a game. When playing with our nephew we would watch his character walk up behind us, point a virtual shotgun at the back of our head and pull the trigger. The graphics in the game show the aftereffects of our character being murdered with the detail going so far as to show a mist of brain matter flying every which way across the room. It was only a game, but it was too realistic for my comfort level.

I relate this story today because of recent real-world events where children have taken real guns and have systematically murdered their families. One event struck close to home when a young Utah man killed his mother and three of his siblings before turning the gun on his father. Fortunately for the father, though being shot in the leg he was able to overpower the teenager, taking away the gun.

This happened in Grantsville, Utah, just three hours from Burley.

How could a teenager take a firearm and murder his mother and each of his siblings? It seems implausible to you and me, but for all we know this teen could have been practicing this heinous act for months. Was he using the video game his parents got him for Christmas to rehearse the act over and over before picking up his father’s firearm and doing it for real?

This past Christmas I bought myself a couple of nerf guns so my grandson, Bentley, and I could play war. Not wanting to create a scenario where I was shooting at him or he was shooting at me, I came up with a game where we set up wood blocks around the house and then worked as a team to knock the blocks over as if they were the bad guys.

It was a pretty fun game but after about ten minutes Bentley would get bored and we would move on to a different game. This suited me just fine as I don’t think he should be playing a game that shoots bad guys very often. Though Nerf guns aren’t real firearms they still simulate what a real-life gun would look like. I don’t believe kids should ever point a gun at a person, real, toy or imagined.

I recall a summer day as a fourteen-year-old when an older friend and I stopped by my girlfriend’s house to say hi. It was her little brother’s eighth birthday and his parents had given him a new BB gun. It wasn’t long before one of the neighbor kids approached us crying. When we asked what was going on he lifted up his shirt and showed us a huge welt on his stomach where the little brother had shot him point blank with the BB Gun.

Alarmed at the sight of his wound, my friend asked the little brother if he could see the BB gun. Upon handing it over we watched in horror as my sixteen-year-old friend took the gun in hand and broke it in half over his knee. You might imagine the reaction he got from the little brother who took the broken gun in hand and ran to tell his parents. “I’m telling my mom,” he yelled, which was followed up by my friend saying, “You do that, and tell her I want to talk to her too.” She never came out, perhaps knowing the error was hers for handing a kid a BB gun with no safety training.

I am a strong believer in the second amendment and our right to own firearms but having them in our homes also carries a lot of responsibility. My two sons were given their first rifle at the age of twelve. They kept these guns in their rooms rather than locked in a gun safe, which in retrospect might not have been a brilliant idea. We didn’t allow video games that involved characters shooting each other though I’m sure they were exposed to some of it at their friend’s houses.

Kids today have enough pressure in their lives as it is, so there’s no reason to have them play video games where virtual guns are used to kill others in the game. Tragically, sometimes kids can’t differentiate between what is real and what is a game.

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