Academic Minute Podcast

Brad Bushman, The Ohio State University – How a Child Can Become a Shooter

What influences kids to want to use a gun?

Brad Bushman, professor of communication and Rinehart chair of mass communication at The Ohio State University, delves into this question.

For over 30 years Brad Bushman has studied aggression and violence. He was a member of President Obama’s committee on gun violence, has co-chaired two reports on youth violence that were sent to the U.S. Congress, and has testified before Congress about youth violence.

How a Child Can Become a Shooter

In January 2023, a first-grade boy from Virginia put his mom’s gun in his backpack and took it to school. He then took the gun out and intentionally shot his teacher, sending her to the hospital.

Although it is impossible to know exactly what caused this boy to shoot his teacher, this shocking incident raises questions about how such incidents could happen in the first place.

The first obvious reason is that fewer than half of all gun owners secure their weapons. “Secure” means, locked up and unloaded, with the ammunition also being locked in a separate location. This is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

Children are naturally curious, and adults often underestimate their ability to find guns hidden in the home.

The media might also play a role. I am especially concerned about media that depict and glorify guns, which is increasing. For example, our research shows that acts of gun violence in PG-13 movies have nearly tripled in the past 30 years.

Our research finds that kids who see media characters use guns are more likely to use real guns themselves. We showed pairs of kids 8 to 12 years old movie clips with or without guns in one study, or had them play a video game with or without guns in another study. Next, we had them play in a room with toys and games. We hid disabled 9mm handguns in a drawer in the room. Kids who saw media characters use guns were more likely to touch the guns, hold them longer, and pull the trigger more times, including while pointing the gun at themselves or a friend.

Exposure to gun violence in media and easy access to firearms around the home all serve to increase the risks of any child picking up a gun.

Read More:
[The Conversation] – How does a child become a shooter? Research suggests easy access to guns and exposure to screen violence increase the risk


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