It wasn’t easy being a teenager with a World War II Pacific combat navy hero for a dad. His silent anger made growing up miserable. I suppose millions of other children felt the same way when their fathers came home with service .45s and attitudes. Those men often took out their suffering from PTSD on families. It’s a wonder more of us didn’t check out as teens from sheer fear and hatred, but by and large, we did not consider suicide.
Nevertheless, we wanted to be just like those dads. We watched Gunsmoke, played with toy revolvers and terrorized the neighborhood with BB guns. We watched Audie Murphy movies, not realizing that, perhaps like our dads, Murphy suffered from insomnia and depression and slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow.
Today’s teens are plagued by different phantoms and are inundated by different values. They watch Hollywood’s 13 Reasons Why and Vampire Diaries, both available on Netflix. The shows involve teens drinking heavily, taking drugs, having multiple sex partners (some willing, some not), committing murder and believing (perhaps as we did at their age) that their emotions cause the universe to spin.
13 Reasons Why (13RW) also romanticizes suicide as a response to teen angst and bullying. Its adults are clueless and helpless. In the show, 17-year-old Hannah Baker commits suicide in a bathtub by slicing her wrists with a razor blade. The scene is posted on YouTube. It isn’t pleasant unless you are undergoing dramatic teen angst, in which case Hannah’s suicide may seem reasonable. Hannah records tapes blaming the people who caused her to want to die. It’s a brilliantly romantic tactic, forcing survivors to give her, in death, the love and understanding they withheld in life.
On April 18, 2017, after binge watching 13RW, 14-year-old Anna Bright of Alabaster, Alabama, climbed into the family bathtub and killed herself. With deepest respect, her obituary reads, in part, “She was the most remarkable of human beings. She was a self-taught artist, photographer and musician. She was an athlete and a scholar. She excelled at everything she touched. She was beautiful in every way possible and will be missed beyond words.” Unlike Hannah, Anna Bright climbed into the bathtub and shot herself. This is the type of human being that Hollywood trivializes.
In an article titled “Why did Anna Bright die?,” the American Family Association said the following: “The show’s creative team, among them Pulitzer Prize winner Brian Yorkey and superstar Selena Gomez, claim that 13RW is positive in purpose, bringing an anti-bullying message and an awareness of mental illness and teen suicide. However, statistics suggest otherwise. Citing a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, The Washington Post reports ‘internet searches about suicide were significantly higher than expected’ within the three weeks after the release of 13RW.”
The brains of young people are not fully formed. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part. In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.”
Why is this relevant to our concealed carry community?
When aimed at teens, highly emotional shows such as 13 Reasons Why are perilous, especially with firearms at home. Despite plot flaws and silly dialogue, teens find these shows emotionally powerful.
Thus, family love, education and training are sometimes not enough. Hollywood taunts children with sexual identity, recreational chemicals, heavy alcohol consumption and no-consequence casual sex, all of which are choices teens should not have to confront until they are mature adults.
The 25-year-old multimillionaire Selena Gomez financed 13RW. I’m guessing she didn’t read or understand the comment by the late New York psychiatrist Fadi Haddad in Time magazine: “Some of my colleagues in the ER say … they see kids now saying, ‘I told my mother I’m going to be Hannah Baker.’”
Those of us who have guns in the home and believe in the 2nd Amendment and our right to self-defense also have a responsibility to keep our firearms out of the hands of unsupervised teens. Along with love, education and monitoring our children’s television and movie habits, that may be the best we can do.
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