More Columbines?

As published in The Washington Times

NBC’s Today host, Matt Lauer, asked me two weeks before John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo were identified and caught, “Who do you think the Beltway Sniper is?” I told the audience, “We will find it is a teen-age boy trained on a shooter video game switched to ‘God mode.’ ‘I am God’ on the tarot card — a gamer mantra — is a clue.”

Two months later, “Dateline” NBC reported that Muhammad had Malvo “train on the Microsoft XBox game Halo switched to ‘God-mode’ to suppress his inhibition to kill and it worked.” Malvo’s Virginia prosecutor admitted there were witnesses to the Halo training.

On June 18, a 12-year-oldboy, dressed in camouflage, walked into his Bull Run Middle School in Prince William County, Va., armed with a rifle, a knife, butane fuel and 100 rounds of ammunition. He planned to take hostages, take over the school and settle scores. A passer-by heard the familiar sound of a gun being loaded as he walked by a bathroom, and a new “Columbine” was narrowly averted. “We were very, very lucky,” said Prince William School Board Chairman Lucy Beauchamp. Indeed they were.

The Prince William County Police got a search warrant and seized guns and computer equipment inthiscommando wannabe’s home, but they had missed something. Having represented the parents of the three girls shot and killed by 14-year-old Michael Carneal in the Paducah, Ky., school massacre, and having predicted Columbine on the “Today” show eight days before it happened, I called the Prince William Police and suggested they needed another search warrant — this one looking for violent video games. Why? Because the FBI and Secret Service found in the aftermath of Columbine that such violent entertainment invariably plays a role in such school shootings. Dozens of such incidents since Columbine have confirmed this.

One year ago, an 11-year-old boy dressed in camouflage tried to take over his Wellsboro, Pa., middle school. He had obsessively trained on Metal Gear Solid 2, a commando game in which the hero wears a red bandanna. The Bull Run boy was sporting a red bandanna — a clue.

Prince William County Detective Tom Garrity, the lead detective in the Beltway snipers case and in this Bull Run case as well, called me and told me I was right in predicting killing simulation games would be found in a subsequent search of this boy’s home. “We found 13 of them, including the commando games Splinter Cell, Operation Wolf and Halo. The Secret Service is analyzing the computer for more.”

When I spoke by phone with the accused’s father, I asked him if his son played commando killing games. “He played them too much, I am embarrassed to say. He played Metal Gear Solid 2 on the computer. It was one of his favorite games,” the father replied.

The Department of Defense has set up the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of Southern California. DOD takes our tax dollars and pays the video-game industry to create virtual-reality-killing simulators — video games. DOD then frees the industry to sell these killing simulators on the civilian market. The latest installment of this desensitization subsidy is Full Spectrum Warrior made for DOD by Pandemic Studios. It’s a top seller with kids across the country.

This week it was reported there were 48 school-related violent deaths in America in the academic year just concluded, up from 17 and 16 in the prior two years. “This is a pending crisis. We know it’s coming — we can guarantee it’s coming,” said L.A. Police Chief William Bratton.

For 200 years, American kids went to school with guns to hunt after classes. They did not turn them on one another. What is different?

Here’s a clue. Kids are training themselves on simulators, some of them created by DOD, to kill one another. Medical studies show kids process the games in a different part of the brain than do adults, the sector that leads to copycatting. Garbage in, garbage out.

You think Columbine was bad? Just wait.

Jack Thompson is a Miami lawyer.