Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Lawsuit Claims Kid Never Would Have Killed Abusive Father Without Playing GTA

from the that-might-take-some-proof dept

rijit writes in to tell us about the latest lawsuit filed by anti-video game lawyer Jack Thompson. This one is similar to other lawsuits, suing the various companies involved in the game, blaming them for a murder, just because a kid who killed his family happened to play Grand Theft Auto. The lawsuit actually claims that this kid never would have shot his father, step mother and step sister if not for the game: "But for Posey's use of these products ... he would not have killed." It would seem like that's a pretty difficult point to prove, especially given that the boy's lawyers claim that his father abused him for years. What this all about, however, is again taking responsibility off of the actual killer. It is obviously disturbing that he went out and shot three family members, and it is worth exploring the reasons why. However, to place the blame entirely on a video game is letting the kid escape responsibility for his actions and would be a horribly perverse response to horrible situation.

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  1. identicon
    PhysicsGuy, 26 Sep 2006 @ 11:38am

    i'm so sick of blaming violence on video games

    seriously, considering in a court of law you're innocent until proven guilty, how are they going to prove such an extreme hypothetical conditional as "he wouldn't have killed him if he hadn't played the game"?

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  2. identicon
    MissingFrame, 26 Sep 2006 @ 11:55am

    I think it's easier to prove ...

    He wouldn't have shot them without a gun, so lets outlaw guns while we're at it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Andrew N., 26 Sep 2006 @ 11:55am

    Good analysis

    to place the blame entirely on a video game is letting the kid escape responsibility for his actions and would be a horribly perverse response to a horrible situation.

    I think describing it as perverse is spot on. While I do take issue with games like Grand Theft Auto (mostly because it's violence for morally objectionable reasons), it is completely wrong-headed to blame the problem of evil on the environment which surrounds us. While I think circumstances do play a part, they primarily only bring something to the surface quicker, they don't create it. There are plenty of pampered rich kids who have killed as well as poor abused ones.

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  4. identicon
    Beefcake, 26 Sep 2006 @ 11:59am

    I heart lawyers

    Of course, the burden of proof for civil cases is much more lenient than criminal. All you have to do is manipulate a jury into finding for your client and ka-ching for the lawyer. Jack Thompson is a thug with a degree, holding up software companies in virtual back-alleys for protection money.

    I'd be curious to find rough sales figures for GTA, mark them up, oh, say, 40% for shared copies (may be conservative), and compare that number (of presumed players) against the number who commit heinous crimes.

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  5. identicon
    Lay Person, 26 Sep 2006 @ 12:06pm

    Oh crap!

    These damn lawyers!

    We need another branch of government just to keep all the lawyers in check!

    It's these same assholes that are trying to take guns away from U.S. citizens...something guaranteed us in the constitution.

    Yeah guns kill people but so do baseball bats and cars. You don't see anyone trying to ban them! Yup, there are no killers only the devices that are used to kill. Does any of this make any fucking sense?


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  6. identicon
    mike, 26 Sep 2006 @ 12:29pm

    Yeah, im pretty sure it was the video game that introduced violence into his fragile mind, not the fact that his own father ABUSED HIM FOR SEVERAL YEARS...

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  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 12:30pm

    The Game developers should sue the criminals!

    Blaming the game companies for violence is silly, as you cannot prove which side fo the equation is the cause, and which is the effect.

    I am just as inclined to believe that real world violence is what leads us to WANT violent video games.

    Heck, there seems to be MORE real world violence, and it has been around alot longer. So I definitely think that real world violence is what spawned video games.

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  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 12:45pm

    well, remember, we blame the tobacco companies for making us smoke. saying they targed kids, to get them hooked at an early age. and well, i think we won. so why is it ok for cigerettes but not video games?

    i think the logic is severly flawed. sure, everything we take in has an impact on our lives. comercials, games, newspapers, traffic signals, medical warnings. who's to say someone goes on a killing rampage because they see a skull and crossbones on some product? we need to draw a line somewhere, and it's a very thick, yet not definate line..

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  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 1:15pm

    Oh God--I'm DOOMED!

    This is scary--based on my gaming experience, I'm very likely to kill, at minimum, an orc; or, quite possibly, a dragon! Now, where did I put my +3 greatsword?

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  10. identicon
    Stu, 26 Sep 2006 @ 1:15pm

    lawyer Jack Thompson and his ilk

    When you treat reprehensible and ludicrous arguments with respect you have elevated the reprehensible and made the ludicrous a bit more reasonable.
    Don't wrestle in the mud with pigs. You get dirty and the pig likes it.

    In other words, let's stop giving these pigs the publicity they are seeking. When they realize they have no audience, they'll go away.

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  11. identicon
    Perry de Havilland, 26 Sep 2006 @ 1:17pm

    Even if it is true he would not have killed them without having played GTA, who cares?

    Rockstar Games did not kill this guys parents, he did. The fact this boy may have got the idea from a game makes not the slightest bit of difference. If he had killed them because of something he read in an Agatha Christie crime novel, does that mean someone can sue the estate of Agatha Christie? The whole things is preposterous.

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  12. identicon
    Lay Person, 26 Sep 2006 @ 2:13pm

    I play games

    I play games...

    I like it. I especially like FPS (First Person Shooter) games. These games offer the player a vantage point where the character is looking at all objects through the crosshairs of some sort of weapon anything from fists, knives, handguns, shotguns, machine guns, all the way to crazy phazer/laser shit.

    Anyway, I don't think I take as much in of the game as the game takes out of me. After I play a few levels I feel a bit more relaxed than when I sat down to start. It offers some sort of relief. What it is, I'm not exactly sure. I believe it is a violent outlet. I can get violent if provoked but 99% of the time I'm pretty easygoing and I've never done time. Most of the time I feel it's a healthy release of violence in virtual world.

    I get my share of kill and guess what? No one really dies. Yeah, the characters in the game aren't real, the blood is fake...even the weapons are all fake! I strongly believe that something must be wrong with these people to begin with if they are as impressionable as defendants claim. These people have far more problems on their plates than some virtual fun in a video game.

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  13. identicon
    Mike Mixer, 26 Sep 2006 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Oh crap!

    No we don't need the government to babysit lawyers, we simply need to remove the single largest incentive for being a lawyer. I know you know what I'm talking about. The money,all the stinking money. Eliminate that and pay every one 40,000 a year and don't pay judges a dime.

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  14. identicon
    Lay Person, 26 Sep 2006 @ 2:56pm

    Re: Re: Oh crap!

    Oh I totally agree...

    But if we can get that far, I'd like to cap politician incomes as well corporate executive's incomes and that of Medical doctors...yeah that ought to do it for now.

    Maybe entertainers and athletes will be next.

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  15. identicon
    Jordan Amdahl, 26 Sep 2006 @ 2:57pm

    Re: i'm so sick of blaming violence on video games

    This is civil court, the burden of proof is preponderance of evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt.

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  16. identicon
    Ben(damnit), 26 Sep 2006 @ 3:00pm

    I know

    Did he drink Milk when he was younger?

    It's a fact that 99.9% of all drug addicts/alchoholics drank milk before they became inticed to try other things.

    It must have been the milk that made him crazy!

    Therefore i say we outlaw milk! It's obviously destroying our society!

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  17. identicon
    faceplant, 26 Sep 2006 @ 3:05pm

    Re: I think it's easier to prove ...

    We're working on it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 3:06pm

    Re: I think it's easier to prove ...

    That is actually a very good idea, except many Americans refuse to yield their infamous "right to bear arms"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 3:08pm

    Never COULD'VE done it

    Speaking of the woulda-shoulda's...if Plan-B had been available around the time this little angel was conceived perhaps he never could've killed those people. We should probably sue the FDA and the drug companies too, just to be sure.

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  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 3:21pm

    Like murderous freaks don't kill people without the provocation of video games. BS. The family of two freaks in Michigan claimed heavy metal music made them take thier own lives in the 80's, why didn't the suit against Judas Priest go through?

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  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 3:24pm

    anonymous not-coward

    y video games, while were at it, lets sue movues w/ violence he has seen the members of a fight he saw in school or whereever, and t.v. not to mention his father was abusing him.

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  22. identicon
    Jay2TheK, 26 Sep 2006 @ 3:24pm

    Let's get to the important facts, shall we?

    How much money did he collect for the kills? Did he steal their cars after he was done and go run down the pedestrians when he was done?

    I hope it wasn't a timed mission or he may not have made it.

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  23. identicon
    ZeroCarestate, 26 Sep 2006 @ 3:36pm

    Jack Thompson Skin

    Is there someone out there can skin? We need a Jack Thompson skin to place in out GTA installs (all versions) so that we can enjoy killing him (extra points for running him down.

    On a serious side, I work in healthcare and see people with serious issues every day. You can't attribute these cases to video games. Perhaps Jack's mommy wouldn't let him play games when he was young so now he's bitter because of it.

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  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 4:21pm


    I think these games actually cause me NOT to kill people. To have an outlet that has no real consequences is quite nice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Whoops!, 26 Sep 2006 @ 4:23pm


    If I write a word, and misspell it, it's the pencil's fault right?

    And if little Johnny breaks his neck playing football in the back yard of his house, you think they'll blame football.

    We need to start killing the stupid people. Seriously. If your IQ is less than 120, you're dead. That simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 4:24pm

    Re: Re: i'm so sick of blaming violence on video g

    correct. civil court is about more likely-than-not; in other words: 51% more likely than not should win the verdict.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 4:34pm

    Re: Re: I think it's easier to prove ...

    I don't own a gun and don't intend to in the future but this one I've got to poop on.

    You're belif that we don't need the "right to bear arms" is exactly what will destroy the U.S. What in God's name leads you to believe that we became one of the world's most powerful nations and have freedoms most civilizations dream about without that right? I bet you use the argument that if we don't have anything to hide we shouldn't care if we're spyed on by the government don't you?

    Our free U.S.A. was born from armed violence. The only way we're going to keep it free forever is if the citizens of this country keep the government in check. Anyone American who thinks we can't become a third-world dictatorship is a brainwashed moron and shouldn't be given sharp objects (or should be given sharp objects [natural selection]).

    You're perspective is not only ignorant, it's dangerous to our way of life. Read a book. Stop watching Fox News and wake up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 4:35pm

    i don't blame the kid, a had an abusive father and i killed him.
    he deserved it to. This kid sounds fucking sweet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    youranidiot, 26 Sep 2006 @ 4:57pm

    Re: I think it's easier to prove ...

    He would not of killed them if he was never born.
    Guess his mother SHOULD of had that abortion.

    Some of these respnses are just moronic.
    Mine above proves just how stupid some are

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  30. identicon
    mlvassallo, 26 Sep 2006 @ 5:08pm

    Yeah right.

    I am sure it was the PS2 game and not the fact his father beat him silly and he had access to guns that drove him to do it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    Martin Melendro, 26 Sep 2006 @ 5:11pm

    Who is the real guilty?

    Even if playing GTA makes someone violent (something which I really doubt, because I have played it for more than three years, and I haven't killed my parents), who is guilty of this murder? Certainly not the kid, an innocent soul. What about Rockstar Games? Not at all. GTA is certainley rated as M (mature), not as E (everyone) or +2, -10, or anything of the sort. Then, how is it possible that a kid was playing it?

    Maybe the fault is of the person who gave him the game, who gave him the money to buy it, who sold it to him, or just the person who permitted him to play it. And who should be in charge of watching what kids are playing in their Xbox or PS? Clearly it is not Rockstar Games' responsibility. The only possible answer is their parents. But probably this kid's father was too busy abusing from his child and hadn't time to watch what his son was actually doing, right in front of him (literally). He was a victim of himself. Kids need love (not pleasure or suffering) in order to love, and when they are exposed to hatred, they end giving it away.

    This is not an easy-solvable problem. Teaching to love, and basically to live, is almost an unachievable goal. Society has grown into sometihng completely horrible, and if we are able to get out of it, it will not be without wathcing suffering, just as we saw in this case.

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  32. identicon
    Clo4leaf, 26 Sep 2006 @ 5:18pm

    My thoughts don't count

    While I have not played GTA or every other game out there, I have and do play some other games. I was born to play video games. I have been playing games since I was probably 3 years old and I have never murdered anyone nor have I ever been arrested on any charge. I do love the violence in video games whether its Mortal Kombat or Rainbow Six or hell even the most violent game of all day that was posted in an article which is Pac-Man. If parents would instill values into children and quit being lazy and let them get into whatever trouble there would be alot less violence in the world and it would not be because of video games.

    Here is my question of the hundreds or thousands of people on death row for murdering someone of one way or another, how many of these people were playing a video game in the last 24 hours before they killed someone? I imagine the answer is very very low, possibly in single digits. Alot of people on death row have been on there for several decades or close to it. So does the problem lay with parents or do we just get a lawyer for a class action lawsuit and sue the makers of PONG.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Jo Mamma, 26 Sep 2006 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: I think it's easier to prove ...

    Fox news? I'd guess Fox news would be very much for the right to bear arms. But if your point is that they suck... I agree.

    However, I do agree with your other point. Firearms are good, and yes they are very American (I guess). It compliments our violent society very well, thank you very much.

    You know why nobody will mess with us even if(when) we lose our status as world leader?

    Because we're FUCKING CRAZY and we all have "guns".

    PS GTA rules and this kid is stupid...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34. identicon
    Seph Or, 26 Sep 2006 @ 6:14pm


    I like it. I especially like FPS (First Person Shooter) games. These games offer the player a vantage point where the character is looking at all objects through the crosshairs of some sort of weapon anything from fists, knives, handguns, shotguns, machine guns, all the way to crazy phazer/laser *shit*.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35. identicon
    chris, 26 Sep 2006 @ 6:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Oh crap!

    Excellent Idea about the salary cap. and when are we going to learn that you don't need the government to make rules for every little fucking thing? I don't like christianity, let's outlaw all religion too.... when are these fucking morons going to grow up?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36. identicon
    Ali, 26 Sep 2006 @ 6:38pm

    What the hell?

    Violence is not that simple, which a game could make a kid kill his family. well you know in a number of countries there are people playing games without copyright (Thousands of Games a year!). I know a 10 years old kid who likes Hitman : Blood Money which is rated as Mature and he really doesn't like to kill his family nor anybody else. why? I know why. because in my counrty and many of other countries people are NOT out-raged, and passionated like dogs! and in my country GUNS are NOT LEGAL.

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  37. identicon
    Kyle, 26 Sep 2006 @ 6:45pm


    1. The constitutional amendment that grants the right to bear arms has been interpreted in MANY MANY ways. It is not a given fact that it gives YOU the right to own an automatic weapon. Im not going to say the constitution speaks against personal arms, because it doesnt (even though the whole amendment was for the purpose of a militia, which we definately dont do), but dont you say that the constitution does ensure your right to own a gun, because thats not necessarily true.

    2. It is an indisputable fact that if guns were outlawed in the US for personal use, murder rates would drop. That should be enough to convince everyone. Yea I know you might only hunt or shoot cans, but you cant deny the plain fact that if guns were permanently outlawed, LESS PEOPLE WOULD DIE FROM THEM. Arent you willing to sacrifice a bit of fun in hunting to save lives, and stop a shitload of violence that occurs in urban areas?

    3. Cars kill people and bats kill people? What are you a moron? Everything can kill someone, you ignorant asshole, I could kill you with my printer given the oppurtunity, but the difference is that with a gun, it is VERY VERY EASY TO KILL PEOPLE. All I do it point it in your general direction, and move my index finger 1/2 inch. BAM YOUR DEAD. Guns should be outlawed because they are SO FUCKING DANGEROUS, and they END LIVES WITH EASE. And anyone who values human life should agree.

    Jesus the only reason Ive ever heard for the right to bear arms is "It says so in the constitution". You guys are fucking sheep, try thinking on your own and arriving on a logical decision rather than just believing what your parents told you when you were growing up.

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  38. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 7:08pm



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 7:56pm

    Don't outlaw guns because...

    Kyle (Post 37)
    Why not outlaw guns? I consider freedom and the right to defend myself higher than human life.

    If this was not the case, our country would not exist because nobody would be willing to die for their country. Go to China, you'd like it there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40. identicon
    Frink, 26 Sep 2006 @ 8:07pm


    Jack? Jack Thompson? Is that you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41. identicon
    PhysicsGuy, 26 Sep 2006 @ 8:27pm


    1. as much as i dislike history, you really need to refresh yourself on it. the constitution affords us the right to bear arms for a reason. it's not for hunting or for fun. it's for defense. personal defense against oppression.

    2. it's an indisputable fact? really? well, i dispute it. people murder other people because they have a motive or are insane. someone doesn't kill a person just because they have a gun and it's easy to kill a person (granted an insane person might, but that doesn't mean that they wouldn't do so by other means if a gun wasn't accessible). outlawing guns does not get rid of a person's motive to commit murder and certainly does not make an insane person sane.

    3. what happens when we outlaw guns and then the canadians come down and take over? what happens when they're packing ak's and we're left without any guns and our military is off fighting some politicians chessboard war?

    I'd hate to say it, but your juvenile age shows. first, you insult us with baseless accusations. we're sheep? see, the point of the 2nd amendment is that we don't allow ourselves to be forced to be sheep by someone who does bear arms. second, you seem to be under the impression that if people think on their own and make a logical deduction then it will be the same deduction that you have made. that is an incredibly naive notion. logic cannot dictate what is the correct conclusion in such things, and as experience shows us, people, even those rationally minded, will form different opinions that both have validity in their own rights.

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  42. identicon
    Jo Mamma, 26 Sep 2006 @ 8:37pm


    I doubt the Tech Dirt guys wanted to create a discussion on gun control, so I'll try to keep this brief...

    Point 1. I don't hunt... I don't shoot cans (often)... I do reserve the right to defend myself... I do reserve the right to form a "militia" should things totally go to shit. Extreme? Perhaps, but I'd bet everything I own that it will be necessary sometime in the future (which is after all, presumably infinite)...

    Point 2. I *MIGHT* be willing to concede the point that "less" people would die should guns be outlawed, but the question would be who's dying? Is it the honest person that gave up their right to self-defense, or the criminal who doesn't want to follow the rules?

    Point 3. I guarantee you couldn't kill me with a printer... I'd shoot you first :-)

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  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2006 @ 9:21pm

    GTA prolonged patricide

    I'm assuming for this purpose the kid was in fact abused... just so you know...

    how much does anybody want to bet that the kid's playing GTA prolonged him from murdering his father? of course he would be angry if he was abused, so that anger would have to go somewhere - so isn't it better to funnel it into pointlessly killing people and driving cars off of buildings for points in GTA than to have nothing to funnel anger into?

    its possible that if he hadn't been playing GTA, he could have done worse than shot them - would you rather he be even more pent up and sacrifice them in a pentagram, cut out their insides, and pray for hell on earth?

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  44. identicon
    Charles King, 26 Sep 2006 @ 9:48pm

    Stupidity within the courts...

    The problem with everyone against games is that they are conservatives (on some level) trying to blame any and every thing possible. They blamed D&D for many people's suicides, just because they played it at one point or another in their lives. Grand Theft Auto went on a downhill spiral with it's mechanics and everything after GTA2, and that's an exception game. Most of the others aren't as idiotic as San Andreas, or they are so idiotic that it's not real at all. As some have mentioned before, why not ban movies, such as Matrix, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or any of the others that have death, violence, or unrealistic things? We all know why not, because censorship limits rights, and there's be a civil uprising if all of our rights are removed. I, for one, would fight for my kids' (in the future, when I have them) right to play some future version of Halo, Half-Life, D&D, Fable, Command & Conquer, or any of the more REALISTIC ARMY GAMES (such as America's Army: Special Forces, or Airborne Troops: Countdown to D-Day, or any of the other historic FPS games otu there)? ...What about the games that the Army condones that's full of shooting and death, and even massive multiplayer battling such as the SOCOM series?! Games may teach tactics, aiming, and other skills associated with killing, as well as predispose children to violence, but let's face it, the world IS violent, it'll always BE violent, and to think otherwise is naive and overly hopeful. I want you all to keep in mind that I'm passive, though, and I agree with some of the other games in the aspect that games are a release for their violent tendancies (much like football...and noone can argue that it isn't).

    Basically, all these anti-game advocates need to start acting mature, rather than blaming things that aren't even responsible. I bet you that GTA showed that kid that when someone's beating him, and possibly about to kill him, that he should defend himself. Then add in all of the psychological trauma that comes with being abused for YEARS...and you've got yourself another killer just waiting to burst out. The sad part about all of this is that it takes gamers to understand life, to use reasoning skills, and to look at the best way to do things. A lawyer/senator just wants money, and they don't care how much of the next generation they're screwing over for that money...

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  45. identicon
    Music Pirate, 27 Sep 2006 @ 12:23am

    Jack Thompson is a fag.

    Someone retire this meatbag already! ;)

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  46. identicon
    Boris Jacobsen, 27 Sep 2006 @ 2:54am

    Hot Coffee

    Just as well this kid didn't have the 'hot coffee' patch, or he'd have raped them before he killed them, right?

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  47. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2006 @ 7:45am

    its true!

    video games DO make you violent
    i played GTA and then i went on a drug fueled hooker beating car smashing gun shooting ramp jumping beach combing helicopter crashing spraypainting casino robbing parachuting police evading crime spree!!!!! i cant help myself!

    also once i played tomb raider and actually grew a pair of great boobs, and then slinked around old ruins and claimed treasure!!

    i remember back when i first played pac-man i got so confused between video games and reality that i actually started popping pills running away from ghosts down dark mazelike hallways!!

    when i played chrono trigger i literally WENT BACK IN TIME!, the video games made me to it ;(

    after playing civilization i wiped out the inca's and aztecs! they had it coming though!!

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  48. identicon
    Lay Person, 27 Sep 2006 @ 10:03am


    Gee... we guess your interpretation of the constitution is correct?


    "On a June evening two years ago, Dan Rather made many stiff British upper lips quiver by reporting that England had a crime problem and that, apart from murder, "theirs is worse than ours." The response was swift and sharp. "Have a Nice Daydream," The Mirror, a London daily, shot back, reporting: "Britain reacted with fury and disbelief last night to claims by American newsmen that crime and violence are worse here than in the US." But sandwiched between the article’s battery of official denials -- "totally misleading," "a huge over-simplification," "astounding and outrageous" -- and a compilation of lurid crimes from "the wild west culture on the other side of the Atlantic where every other car is carrying a gun," The Mirror conceded that the CBS anchorman was correct. Except for murder and rape, it admitted, "Britain has overtaken the US for all major crimes."

    In the two years since Dan Rather was so roundly rebuked, violence in England has gotten markedly worse. Over the course of a few days in the summer of 2001, gun-toting men burst into an English court and freed two defendants; a shooting outside a London nightclub left five women and three men wounded; and two men were machine-gunned to death in a residential neighborhood of north London. And on New Year’s Day this year a 19-year-old girl walking on a main street in east London was shot in the head by a thief who wanted her mobile phone. London police are now looking to New York City police for advice.

    None of this was supposed to happen in the country whose stringent gun laws and 1997 ban on handguns have been hailed as the "gold standard" of gun control. For the better part of a century, British governments have pursued a strategy for domestic safety that a 1992 Economist article characterized as requiring "a restraint on personal liberty that seems, in most civilised countries, essential to the happiness of others," a policy the magazine found at odds with "America’s Vigilante Values." The safety of English people has been staked on the thesis that fewer private guns means less crime. The government believes that any weapons in the hands of men and women, however law-abiding, pose a danger, and that disarming them lessens the chance that criminals will get or use weapons.

    The results -- the toughest firearm restrictions of any democracy -- are credited by the world’s gun control advocates with producing a low rate of violent crime. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell reflected this conventional wisdom when, in a 1988 speech to the American Bar Association, he attributed England’s low rates of violent crime to the fact that "private ownership of guns is strictly controlled."

    In reality, the English approach has not re-duced violent crime. Instead it has left law-abiding citizens at the mercy of criminals who are confident that their victims have neither the means nor the legal right to resist them. Imitating this model would be a public safety disaster for the United States.

    The illusion that the English government had protected its citizens by disarming them seemed credible because few realized the country had an astonishingly low level of armed crime even before guns were restricted. A government study for the years 1890-92, for example, found only three handgun homicides, an average of one a year, in a population of 30 million. In 1904 there were only four armed robberies in London, then the largest city in the world. A hundred years and many gun laws later, the BBC reported that England’s firearms restrictions "seem to have had little impact in the criminal underworld." Guns are virtually outlawed, and, as the old slogan predicted, only outlaws have guns. Worse, they are increasingly ready to use them.

    Nearly five centuries of growing civility ended in 1954. Violent crime has been climbing ever since. Last December, London’s Evening Standard reported that armed crime, with banned handguns the weapon of choice, was "rocketing." In the two years following the 1997 handgun ban, the use of handguns in crime rose by 40 percent, and the upward trend has continued. From April to November 2001, the number of people robbed at gunpoint in London rose 53 percent.

    Gun crime is just part of an increasingly lawless environment. From 1991 to 1995, crimes against the person in England’s inner cities increased 91 percent. And in the four years from 1997 to 2001, the rate of violent crime more than doubled. Your chances of being mugged in London are now six times greater than in New York. England’s rates of assault, robbery, and burglary are far higher than America’s, and 53 percent of English burglaries occur while occupants are at home, compared with 13 percent in the U.S., where burglars admit to fearing armed homeowners more than the police. In a United Nations study of crime in 18 developed nations published in July, England and Wales led the Western world’s crime league, with nearly 55 crimes per 100 people.

    This sea change in English crime followed a sea change in government policies. Gun regulations have been part of a more general disarmament based on the proposition that people don’t need to protect themselves because society will protect them. It also will protect their neighbors: Police advise those who witness a crime to "walk on by" and let the professionals handle it.

    This is a reversal of centuries of common law that not only permitted but expected individuals to defend themselves, their families, and their neighbors when other help was not available. It was a legal tradition passed on to Americans. Personal security was ranked first among an individual’s rights by William Blackstone, the great 18th-century exponent of the common law. It was a right, he argued, that no government could take away, since no government could protect the individual in his moment of need. A century later Blackstone’s illustrious successor, A.V. Dicey, cautioned, "discourage self-help and loyal subjects become the slaves of ruffians."

    But modern English governments have put public order ahead of the individual’s right to personal safety. First the government clamped down on private possession of guns; then it forbade people to carry any article that might be used for self-defense; finally, the vigor of that self-defense was to be judged by what, in hindsight, seemed "reasonable in the circumstances."

    The 1920 Firearms Act was the first serious British restriction on guns. Although crime was low in England in 1920, the government feared massive labor disruption and a Bolshevik revolution. In the circumstances, permitting the people to remain armed must have seemed an unnecessary risk. And so the new policy of disarming the public began. The Firearms Act required a would-be gun owner to obtain a certificate from the local chief of police, who was charged with determining whether the applicant had a good reason for possessing a weapon and was fit to do so. All very sensible. Parliament was assured that the intention was to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and other dangerous persons. Yet from the start the law’s enforcement was far more restrictive, and Home Office instructions to police -- classified until 1989 -- periodically narrowed the criteria.

    At first police were instructed that it would be a good reason to have a revolver if a person "lives in a solitary house, where protection against thieves and burglars is essential, or has been exposed to definite threats to life on account of his performance of some public duty." By 1937 police were to discourage applications to possess firearms for house or personal protection. In 1964 they were told "it should hardly ever be necessary to anyone to possess a firearm for the protection of his house or person" and that "this principle should hold good even in the case of banks and firms who desire to protect valuables or large quantities of money."

    In 1969 police were informed "it should never be necessary for anyone to possess a firearm for the protection of his house or person." These changes were made without public knowledge or debate. Their enforcement has consumed hundreds of thousands of police hours. Finally, in 1997 handguns were banned. Proposed exemptions for handicapped shooters and the British Olympic team were rejected.

    Even more sweeping was the 1953 Prevention of Crime Act, which made it illegal to carry in a public place any article "made, adapted, or intended" for an offensive purpose "without lawful authority or excuse." Carrying something to protect yourself was branded antisocial. Any item carried for possible defense automatically became an offensive weapon. Police were given extensive power to stop and search everyone. Individuals found with offensive items were guilty until proven innocent.

    During the debate over the Prevention of Crime Act in the House of Commons, a member from Northern Ireland told his colleagues of a woman employed by Parliament who had to cross a lonely heath on her route home and had armed herself with a knitting needle. A month earlier, she had driven off a youth who tried to snatch her handbag by jabbing him "on a tender part of his body." Was it to be an offense to carry a knitting needle? The attorney general assured the M.P. that the woman might be found to have a reasonable excuse but added that the public should be discouraged "from going about with offensive weapons in their pockets; it is the duty of society to protect them."

    Another M.P. pointed out that while "society ought to undertake the defense of its members, nevertheless one has to remember that there are many places where society cannot get, or cannot get there in time. On those occasions a man has to defend himself and those whom he is escorting. It is not very much consolation that society will come forward a great deal later, pick up the bits, and punish the violent offender."

    In the House of Lords, Lord Saltoun argued: "The object of a weapon was to assist weakness to cope with strength and it is this ability that the bill was framed to destroy. I do not think any government has the right, though they may very well have the power, to deprive people for whom they are responsible of the right to defend themselves." But he added: "Unless there is not only a right but also a fundamental willingness amongst the people to defend themselves, no police force, however large, can do it."

    That willingness was further undermined by a broad revision of criminal law in 1967 that altered the legal standard for self-defense. Now everything turns on what seems to be "reasonable" force against an assailant, considered after the fact. As Glanville Williams notes in his Textbook of Criminal Law, that requirement is "now stated in such mitigated terms as to cast doubt on whether it [self-defense] still forms part of the law."

    The original common law standard was similar to what still prevails in the U.S. Americans are free to carry articles for their protection, and in 33 states law-abiding citizens may carry concealed guns. Americans may defend themselves with deadly force if they believe that an attacker is about to kill or seriously injure them, or to prevent a violent crime. Our courts are mindful that, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, "detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an upraised knife."

    But English courts have interpreted the 1953 act strictly and zealously. Among articles found illegally carried with offensive intentions are a sandbag, a pickaxe handle, a stone, and a drum of pepper. "Any article is capable of being an offensive weapon," concede the authors of Smith and Hogan Criminal Law, a popular legal text, although they add that if the article is unlikely to cause an injury the onus of proving intent to do so would be "very heavy."

    The 1967 act has not been helpful to those obliged to defend themselves either. Granville Williams points out: "For some reason that is not clear, the courts occasionally seem to regard the scandal of the killing of a robber as of greater moment than the safety of the robber’s victim in respect of his person and property."

    A sampling of cases illustrates the impact of these measures:

    • In 1973 a young man running on a road at night was stopped by the police and found to be carrying a length of steel, a cycle chain, and a metal clock weight. He explained that a gang of youths had been after him. At his hearing it was found he had been threatened and had previously notified the police. The justices agreed he had a valid reason to carry the weapons. Indeed, 16 days later he was attacked and beaten so badly he was hospitalized. But the prosecutor appealed the ruling, and the appellate judges insisted that carrying a weapon must be related to an imminent and immediate threat. They sent the case back to the lower court with directions to convict.

    • In 1987 two men assaulted Eric Butler, a 56-year-old British Petroleum executive, in a London subway car, trying to strangle him and smashing his head against the door. No one came to his aid. He later testified, "My air supply was being cut off, my eyes became blurred, and I feared for my life." In desperation he unsheathed an ornamental sword blade in his walking stick and slashed at one of his attackers, stabbing the man in the stomach. The assailants were charged with wounding. Butler was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.

    • In 1994 an English homeowner, armed with a toy gun, managed to detain two burglars who had broken into his house while he called the police. When the officers arrived, they arrested the homeowner for using an imitation gun to threaten or intimidate. In a similar incident the following year, when an elderly woman fired a toy cap pistol to drive off a group of youths who were threatening her, she was arrested for putting someone in fear. Now the police are pressing Parliament to make imitation guns illegal.

    • In 1999 Tony Martin, a 55-year-old Norfolk farmer living alone in a shabby farmhouse, awakened to the sound of breaking glass as two burglars, both with long criminal records, burst into his home. He had been robbed six times before, and his village, like 70 percent of rural English communities, had no police presence. He sneaked downstairs with a shotgun and shot at the intruders. Martin received life in prison for killing one burglar, 10 years for wounding the second, and a year for having an unregistered shotgun. The wounded burglar, having served 18 months of a three-year sentence, is now free and has been granted £5,000 of legal assistance to sue Martin.

    The failure of English policy to produce a safer society is clear, but what of British jibes about "America’s vigilante values" and our much higher murder rate?

    Historically, America has had a high homicide rate and England a low one. In a comparison of New York and London over a 200-year period, during most of which both populations had unrestricted access to firearms, historian Eric Monkkonen found New York’s homicide rate consistently about five times London’s. Monkkonen pointed out that even without guns, "the United States would still be out of step, just as it has been for two hundred years."

    Legal historian Richard Maxwell Brown has argued that Americans have more homicides because English law insists an individual should retreat when attacked, whereas Americans believe they have the right to stand their ground and kill in self-defense. Americans do have more latitude to protect themselves, in keeping with traditional common law standards, but that would have had less significance before England’s more restrictive policy was established in 1967.

    The murder rates of the U.S. and U.K. are also affected by differences in the way each counts homicides. The FBI asks police to list every homicide as murder, even if the case isn’t subsequently prosecuted or proceeds on a lesser charge, making the U.S. numbers as high as possible. By contrast, the English police "massage down" the homicide statistics, tracking each case through the courts and removing it if it is reduced to a lesser charge or determined to be an accident or self-defense, making the English numbers as low as possible.

    The London-based Office of Health Economics, after a careful international study, found that while "one reason often given for the high numbers of murders and manslaughters in the United States is the easy availability of firearms...the strong correlation with racial and socio-economic variables suggests that the underlying determinants of the homicide rate are related to particular cultural factors."

    Cultural differences and more-permissive legal standards notwithstanding, the English rate of violent crime has been soaring since 1991. Over the same period, America’s has been falling dramatically. In 1999 The Boston Globe reported that the American murder rate, which had fluctuated by about 20 percent between 1974 and 1991, was "in startling free-fall." We have had nine consecutive years of sharply declining violent crime. As a result the English and American murder rates are converging. In 1981 the American rate was 8.7 times the English rate, in 1995 it was 5.7 times the English rate, and the latest study puts it at 3.5 times.

    Preliminary figures for the U.S. this year show an increase, although of less than 1 percent, in the overall number of violent crimes, with homicide increases in certain cities, which criminologists attribute to gang violence, the poor economy, and the release from prison of many offenders. Yet Americans still enjoy a substantially lower rate of violent crime than England, without the "restraint on personal liberty" English governments have seen as necessary. Rather than permit individuals more scope to defend themselves, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government plans to combat crime by extending those "restraints on personal liberty": removing the prohibition against double jeopardy so people can be tried twice for the same crime, making hearsay evidence admissible in court, and letting jurors know of a suspect’s previous crimes.

    This is a cautionary tale. America’s founders, like their English forebears, regarded personal security as first of the three primary rights of mankind. That was the main reason for including a right for individuals to be armed in the U.S. Constitution. Not everyone needs to avail himself or herself of that right. It is a dangerous right. But leaving personal protection to the police is also dangerous..."

    The above is an excerpt from:
    Gun Control’s Twisted Outcome
    Restricting firearms has helped make England more crime-ridden than the U.S.

    By Joyce Lee Malcolm

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49. identicon
    Lay Person, 27 Sep 2006 @ 10:07am

    Sorry for the huge post...

    Sorry for the huge post...

    But some people think they're so fucking smart.

    The post is intended to slap some know-it-alls (Kyle and his type of anti-American liberal dribble) into reality

    All they do is repeat shit that sticks in their heads. Rambling like a parrot.

    Wanna cracker Kyle?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2006 @ 6:50am

    hey lay person, anyone who follows whatever their us government tells them is anti-american.

    our founder said it wasn't our right, it was OUR DUTY to question the governmetn.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51. identicon
    TheDuke, 28 Sep 2006 @ 8:07am

    Re: Re: Re: I think it's easier to prove ...

    Umm, you think we're NOT a dictatorship?
    YOU need to wake up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52. identicon
    TheDuke, 28 Sep 2006 @ 8:25am

    oh yeah and another thing

    Can I blame Pac man for my going to raves and rolling on X every night?

    When is Jack gonna get on's TheArmyOfOne game. I know the kid played that game too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53. identicon
    that_guy_from_Alaska, 20 Nov 2006 @ 12:02pm

    Why do people always blame other people and some gaming companys for crap that children do. Is it always the kids fault when he breaks something he shouldn't have? Is it the companys fault that they made a high selling game? Why should we blame the companys that produce games like GTA on killings that kids do. How do people know that the game trained them? Did the kid actually admit to "being trained?" What if they felt like pulling a colombine not because of what they have played, but because of what they have went through? What if they were picked on and never in their life felt important? They most likely wanted to get attention and this was one solution to a few problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54. identicon
    that_guy_from_Alaska, 20 Nov 2006 @ 12:05pm

    Why do people always blame other people and some gaming companys for crap that children do. Is it always the kids fault when he breaks something he shouldn't have? Is it the companys fault that they made a high selling game? Why should we blame the companys that produce games like GTA on killings that kids do. How do people know that the game trained them? Did the kid actually admit to "being trained?" What if they felt like pulling a colombine not because of what they have played, but because of what they have went through? What if they were picked on and never in their life felt important? They most likely wanted to get attention and this was one solution to a few problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55. identicon
    joe, 12 Mar 2007 @ 10:24am

    i think he just blamed that to get out of the crime. cuz its easy to do. all you have to say is i saw it on a game and theyll jump all over it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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