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Lt. Colonel David Grossman

Trained to KILL - Violent Video Game/Movie Exchange

Lt. Colonel David Grossman explains why he believes today's kids are killing their classmates. (June, 1999)

School Shooting

After last year's shootings in his hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas, retired Lt. Col. David Grossman didn't know when or where the next shooting incident of school violence would occur, but he says he predicted it would involve more than just guns. His source: violent video games. All the video games, with few exceptions, at their upper levels give you grenades, bombs, some instruments of destruction, Grossman, a retired army officer and nationally known expert on the psychology of killing, said: “All you've got to do is study what kids are being rewarded for.” Grossman's theory may have been borne out in the April 20 Columbine massacre, in which gunmen Erie Harris and Dylan Klebold employed dozens of homemade explosives in what became the worst school shooting in U.S. history. Both were avid players of violent computer games such as Doom and Duke Nukem.

On Saturday, June 12th, Grossman held two public lectures at Arapahoe Community College, South Santa Fe Drive and Church Avenue, in the cafeteria inside the west doors of the main building. At 1 p.m., he addressed violent video games and their effect on children, and at 6 p.m. he held a workshop on youth violence and lessons learned from the Jonesboro shootings.

The program, sponsored by Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren, included a violent-video and computer Game Swap after his 1 p.m. presentation. Board-game maker Milton Bradley has donated 500 family-oriented games. 100-150 attended and a number of games were swapped.


Grossman trained counselors and clergy in the wake of the March 1998 Jonesboro incident. “We're seeing bombs, seeing kids clear an entire building, and seeing them laugh and cheer and mock,” Grossman said, describing the Columbine scenario. “That's out of video games. Through all those variables, we focus on pre-can see the M.O., the fingerprints the basic script straight from the video game to the reality.”

“I played ‘bang-bang, I-got-you’ when I was a kid. But as soon as someone was hurt, play stops. The purpose of playing violent videos is to hurt and kill and destroy with ever more vivid depictions of death and suffering.”

Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor, wrote the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, and has pursued an area of study he calls “killology.” He recently was retained as the plaintiffs‘ consultant in a civil suit against the entertainment industry, including the makers of Doom, arising from the 1997 school shooting in Paducah, KY.

He contends that some of the same psychological conditioning the military has employed, “with safeguards,” to train soldiers to kill has been replicated in video games that serve to disconnect violent acts from their consequences. Questions “The overall dynamic of developing a fantasy world and turning their dark, twisted fantasies into your reality is what violent computer games introduce,” Grossman says. “We're drilling these children to kill every living creature. They're on autopilot.”

Grossman acknowledges that other factors, such as access to guns, figure strongly into the school shootings that have rocked the nation in recent months. But he maintains that the phenomenon of multiple, indiscriminate killings clearly reflects a reflex honed by violent, point-and-shoot games.

One new element introduced by the Columbine incident, he says, was the idea of two gunmen rampaging through the school together. “As they did it, they cheered and laughed and mocked,” he says. “You might ask yourself: Where is that coming from? But go to any video arcade in America and most are two player games and you will see kids laughing and mocking, deriving pleasure from human suffering.” Grossman was available for a Book Signing and questions.

Additional Resources

Active Shooters in Schools: The Enemy is Denial
Grossman, David
Jonesboro Arkansas School Shooting Kills Five
Killology (study of the psychological effects of killing)
On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society - David Grossman

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer
to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
1 Peter 3:15

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