DALLAS, TEXAS — Deep in the bowels of the Kate Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, America’s most famous professor of “killology” delivered his first sales pitch of the NRA Convention.
Dave Grossman is a former US Army Ranger who for the past 20 years has devoted himself to training military and law enforcement personnel on the reality of killing and combat. His book On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society is required reading for FBI Cadets, and he regularly travels the country training law enforcement officers.
But in his three-hour seminar on Friday, called Sheepdogs! The Bulletproof Mind for the Armed Citizen, Grossman didn’t focus on examining the psychology behind killing. Instead, he painted an apocalyptic vision of the threats facing America, sounding like an anguished preacher in front of crowd that was mostly male, mostly middle-aged and almost completely white.
Grossman weaved together mass shootings from all over the world to support his thesis that violent media, and specifically violent video games, were creating a generation of killers.
“This stuff is worldwide. Folks, I want you to understand this is not business as usual. Around the planet children are committing crimes like no one’s ever seen before in human history,” Grossman said. “It’s not about the guns, the guns have always been there. It’s the sick movies and the sick TV shows and especially the sick video games around the planet that are creating sick, sick kids.”
The massacres — Grossman thought the term mass shooting is too politicized — mentioned in the seminar ranged from Sandy Hook and Parkland to the 1996 mass shooting in Dublane, Scotland to the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis to the 2011 Utoya Island massacre in Norway. Grossman also talked about how Latin America was a “howling war zone” and we’re not even hearing about it in the media.
The details of these various tragedies were passed over. Grossman never mentioned the issue of mental health, or how Russian security services used an unknown gas when storming the theater in 2002, potentially inadvertently killing dozens of hostages, or how the Utoya Island shooter was a far-right extremist.
Instead, Grossman focused in on a few key points: violent video games were creating an Assassination Generation; security services will never be able to properly protect a country’s citizens; and that it is the responsibility of an American gun-owner to be ready to confront a mass shooter. Every. Single. Day.
“Know that your sacrifice is for a noble purpose, you must believe our nation needs you as armed, informed and prepared citizens,” Grossman said. “Around the planet there are elite military teams standing by and they’ll get there in an hour, two, two days…But two nations play the game differently, Israel and US… For those of us who train, those of us who are good, we yearn for the opportunity.”
But given the demographics, and the fact that there is only one recorded incident in 160 active shootings of a good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun, Grossman’s rhetoric seemed less an actual tactical option and more an excuse to justify opposition to any sort of gun control legislation, no matter how much the children at-risk plead for it.
I asked Grossman after his seminar whether maybe other factors could affect high crimes rates, especially in Latin America which has dealt with fallout from US interventions and the War on Drugs for decades.
“Those factors are important but they’ve always been there — poverty, etc. — they’re all a given,” he responded. “You gotta ask yourself what the new factor is. What we’ve got is this dynamic of that sick media. It’s our export to the world…This media violence creates a twisted representation that it’s a mean world out there and I gotta go out there and get mine.”
Grossman seemed to describing the key motives behind America’s obsession with weapons and self-defense. Instead, he brought it back to video games.
“You gotta ask yourself what’s the new factor,” he said. “It’s not exporting our military, it’s exporting our sick movies and our sick TV shows and especially our sick video games.”