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Pornography is a ‘root cause’ of school shootings, Republican congresswoman says

Eleven schools since Columbine High School in 1999 have had mass shootings. Accounts by witnesses and survivors are eerily similar. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post, Photo: Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
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A Republican congresswoman from Tennessee blamed pornography — as well as a host of other cultural issues — for school shootings, during a recent meeting.

Diane Black, who is running for governor of Tennessee, made the comments while speaking to a group of ministers during a “listening session” recently, according to HuffPost, which reported the story and included audio of the remarks.

The comment about pornography came as Black wondered what was driving some children to such violent ends.

“What makes them do that?” she said. “Because as a nurse, I go back to root causes.”

She then listed a couple of these root causes, which included pornography, as well as “deterioration of the family” and violence in movies.

“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.”

Black also spoke briefly about mental illness being something “we’ve got to address.”

HuffPost published only about 2 1/2 minutes of audio, so it is not clear whether Black gave specifics about the ways she believes pornography could lead to gun violence.

Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Black, wrote that the congresswoman “believes the breakdown of families and communities plays a significant role in instances of school violence.”

Black’s remarks were among the latest attempts to explain the United States’ high numbers of mass shootings.

Liberals and other advocates of stricter gun control point to statistics that indicate that the prevalence of guns is the single most important variable when examining why the United States has more mass shootings than other countries. Many conservatives and the National Rifle Association point to other causes, including intense news coverage of mass shootings, video games, abortion and a lack of religion, inadequate control of entry into schools, and even the act of going to school itself.

Things blamed for the deadly Texas school shooting: Ritalin. Abortion. The media. Schools. And doors.

“Hearing from many parents, they’re scared to send their kids to school,” Texas state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R) wrote on Twitter after the shooting near Houston. “We need to give them as many different choices as possible.”

Pornography has long been a target of social conservatives and some religious groups in the United States, though it has been upheld by the courts as constitutionally protected speech.

As The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips wrote after legislators in Utah approved a resolution calling porn “evil, degrading, addictive and harmful,” “the science isn’t settled yet on what regular porn use does to the brain and a person’s sexual and romantic life — especially when it comes to young people who view it in their formative years.”

Debating porn’s ills on society seems like a game of choose-your-own-study. There are studies that claim to show a link between pornography and a myriad of sexual, mental and emotional problems. And there are studies that claim to show porn watching actually helps people’s relationships. In Denmark, some teachers actually use the topic of porn to teach students about the difference between consensual and nonconsensual sex, the Economist reports.
Branding porn as a public health hazard, though, also doesn’t change advocates’ fundamental problem: They have little legal recourse to limit it.

Studies analyzing mass shootings in the United States and contrasting this country with others demonstrate that the single most important variable is the high number of guns in the United States, according to the New York Times, given that many other developed countries experience similar rates of video-game use, mental illness and other societal challenges but do not have comparable numbers of mass shootings.

Game company Valve was set to release "Active Shooter" on its online platform Steam. (Video: Allie Caren/The Washington Post)

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