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Tennessee Congresswoman criticized for linking porn to gun violence

Nashville: Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who is a candidate for Tennessee governor, drew criticism this week for saying the “root” causes of gun violence included the “deterioration of family,” violent movies and widely available pornography.

A spokesman for Black’s campaign said she was referring to factors that contribute to violence.

“It’s no surprise that the liberal media would misconstrue the views of conservative Christians,” the spokesman, Chris Hartline, said in an email Wednesday. “Diane, like many others, believes that the breakdown of family values and social structures is a contributing factor to violence. That’s clear if you actually listen to her words instead of reading clickbait headlines.”

Black, a gun rights supporter who opposes firearm restrictions, made the comments in a meeting with local pastors last week, according to HuffPost, which obtained audio that was recorded at the gathering.

“Why do we see kids being so violent?” she can be heard asking. “Because as a nurse I go back to root cause. And I think there’s a couple.”

“I think it’s deterioration of family,” she added. “They don’t have that good support system,” which leads children “in the wrong direction.”

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, Black said.

She then brought up “violent movies” as being part of the problem, a claim experts have disputed.

“I still cannot watch one of those violent movies where people are being blown up, because I’m not desensitised to that,” she said. “I didn’t watch that as a kid.”

Next, Black mentioned pornography.

“It’s available — it’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store,” she said. “Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there. All of this is available without parental guidance. And I think that is a big part of the root cause that we see so many young people that have mental illness get caught in these places.”

Mental illness has also been linked to gun violence time and again, even though overall, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent 1 per cent of all gun homicides each year, according to the book “Gun Violence and Mental Illness,” published by the American Psychiatric Association in 2016.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which is affiliated with the non-profit pro-gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety, denounced the congresswoman’s words Tuesday.

“Despite all of the data and experts at her disposal, Tennessee lawmaker chooses to blame ‘grocery store pornography’ for school shootings,” Watts said on Twitter. “And she doesn’t mean the magazines that glorify guns.”

Black’s spokesman disputed that this was what the lawmaker had said.

“She says a root cause of violence is mental illness and the breakdown in family values and social structures,” Hartline said. “She uses easy access to pornography as an example of that.”

Mitt Romney made similar points in 2007 when seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

“Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games,” he said at the time. “The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool.”

The argument that violent movies can lead to gun violence has also been recently espoused by President Donald Trump. At a meeting on school safety a week after a gunman identified as a former student killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Trump said movies are “so violent.”

“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,” he said.

President Barack Obama had sought to examine the issue after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December 2012, and in 2013 he asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research the causes of gun violence and how to prevent it, beginning by identifying the most pressing research questions.

Following that directive, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council issued a report in June 2013 that called for more studies, saying a direct relationship between violence in media and real-life gun violence had not been established.

But Republicans later rejected a proposal to allocate $10 million to the CDC for gun research. It wasn’t the first time Congress had rejected this type of funding. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who was the director of the health agency from 2009 to 2017, told The New York Times that he had asked for funding “year after year” to study firearms-related violence but that those proposals were refused.

Further complicating matters, the Dickey Amendment, which is backed by the National Rifle Association, says: “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

Black, a lifetime member of the NRA, said on her campaign website that she would keep fighting to preserve the right to keep and bear arms.

“In response to mass shootings, liberals have called for banning and confiscating all guns,” her website says. “We must recognise mental health issues are the cause of mass gun violence, not the guns themselves.”

— New York Times News Service

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