Grand Theft Auto Blamed After Eight-Year-Old Shoots Grandmother

Grand Theft Auto Blamed After Eight-Year-Old Shoots Grandmother

Last week, an eight-year-old boy picked up a loaded gun and shot his grandmother in the head a few minutes after playing Grand Theft Auto IV. You’ll never guess which part of that sentence has become a talking point for pundits and media analysts over the past couple of days.

On Thursday, just after 5pm, the child shot and killed his grandmother in their trailer park home in Slaughter, Louisiana. Police said the kid was playing Grand Theft Auto just before the incident, and the headlines were written accordingly, with major media outlets like CNN and the New York Daily News emphasising the ludic connection.

Somehow, an eight-year-old kid had access to a firearm, yet this weekend’s debate question has not been “how the hell did that happen?” The media is not befuddled as to why a gun was lying around in this mobile home. Psychiatrists are not taking to television to ask why the boy’s grandmother wasn’t watching him more closely so he couldn’t pick up a gun. Instead, cops and reporters are going down a familiar path: Are games too violent? Do they encourage kids to shoot people? Did Grand Theft Auto IV cause this?

Here’s CNN:

While the motive is unclear, the sheriff’s department implied the child’s activities in a violent virtual world may have led to the killing.

“Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III ‘Grand Theft Auto IV,’ a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred.”

Fox News had their own unique spin, pulling in an expert witness to point out that video games are good practice for murder.

“From a behaviour therapy perspective, I would say that’s practicing,” Kristopher Kaliebe, a LSU Health Sciences Center child psychologist told

“So if you have a video game where someone shoots at a target, that’s sort of practicing shooting at a target. When you have a video game that is shooting at a human being, that is practicing shooting at a human being,” Kaliebe said.

And then the pundits took to TV to start the discussion: just how bad are video games? Is violent media as bad as… heroin?

CNN’s pundit points out that the correlation between the child playing Grand Theft Auto IV and the crime “cannot be overlooked.”

Here’s MSNBC talking about virtual reality:

And so forth and so forth. The cycle continues as it does. Video games are an easy target, a sexy issue, and a subject that many reporters find it OK to discuss without properly fact-checking — you don’t get “points” for killing people in Grand Theft Auto IV, despite what the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff Department says. This has become as regular a routine for video games as inane local media broadcasts.

This blame game has become so ubiquitous that when a U.S. senator — an actual U.S. senator — declares that video games are a bigger problem than guns, everyone just kind of accepts it. When Louisiana police imply a direct connection between a horrific tragedy and an M-rated video game, that’s what drives the conversation. The headline is not “Louisiana boy shoots grandmother after picking up loaded gun” — it is “Louisiana boy shoots grandmother after playing Grand Theft Auto IV.” Catchy.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be asking questions about what games do to our minds: here at Kotaku, we’ve spent a great deal of time researching and discussing the psychological effects of violent games. As with most questions that try to pinpoint how our brains function, there are no straightforward answers. Scientists are divided. There’s consensus that more research needs to be done on the subject.

But there’s one issue that needs no research: eight-year-olds should not have unsupervised access to loaded guns. Period. End of discussion. This debate over video game violence needs to be secondary to the debate over real violence. When Louisiana police imply that Grand Theft Auto IV caused this tragedy — and when the news amplifies that conversation with hyperbolic analogies and catchy soundbites — it distracts from the terrifying reality that an eight-year-old was able to pick up and fire a handgun.

Do video games make kids more aggressive? Maybe. Should an eight-year-old be playing a game as violent as Grand Theft Auto IV? Probably not. Did the game rile this kid up and make him shoot his grandma? I have no idea.

The more important question — the question CNN and Fox News and MSNBC and all the other pundits and analysts should really be asking — is this: How was an eight-year-old able to shoot his grandmother in the first place? He sure didn’t use a video game.


      • Not only that, games controls aren’t shaped like a gun and don’t operate like guns, pressing on the trigger of on the top edge of the control in no way resembles or simulates pulling the trigger on the bottom of a gun, someone has to have showed that child how to hold and fire the weapon, seems like this is a horrible accident attributed to a dangerous social gun culture that thinks it’s ok to familiarise children with weapons.

        • More importantly unless it was a revolver, He would need to
          1. Take gun off safety
          2. Chamber first round by sliding the barrel back (unless it was already cocked which is worse)
          3. Shoot grandma before she realised he did 1 and 2.

          Unless Gun was loaded, cocked and off safety………

          Was a revolver. What idiot has a loaded revolver around kids.

    • Exactly, I was in Target the other day (looking for Disney Infinity figures), and I overheard a couple of women talking about GTA IV, trying to decide which would be better, the main game or the two expansions. They clearly had no idea, so I decided to help them out. I told them around about how much game time you’d get out of each one. They decided to go for the main game.

      They then proceeded to tell me that it was for a 7 year old, and he was “just going to drive around in the cars anyway”.

      Needless to say I was disgusted and wished I hadn’t helped them in the first place.

      We could bring in an X rating for games and it still wouldn’t stop kids getting access to them, purely because of idiot parents.

      • Should’ve stepped up and told them right off! I took that liberty when I used to work in a retail, of asking parents if the game they were purchasing was for a kid, stating what the game actually is. People are deeply misinformed and seem to not realise that yes, these games have a lot of violence. It may not be terribly damaging to a 15 year old, but it’s definitely not something for a 7 year old kid.

      • I’d buy GTA: IV for a 7 year old if all they did was drive around in a car. If they ran someone over? Show them that there are consequences for actions — either stop playing the game for a while, or let the cops get ’em, or something like that.

  • I could watch and play whatever I wanted when I was younger. Violent media does not cause mental issues. That is to say, it may enhance already unstable minds though, but through more than 2 decades of violent media games/movies/books/comics have not made me want to hurt anyone. I hate US news.

    • Same thing with me, only I was brought up with and regularly used firearms. I don’t think I’ve ever shot anyone.

    • I’m American and I approve this message. I swear if someones dumb ass little kid screws up my chances of playing GTA V I will………… *looking for grandma’s new address* 😀

    • While I agree with you for the most part, there’s one annoying little factor I keep coming back to in the back of my mind.

      The games that we grew up on: Doom, Quake, Half Life all the way to medal of honour and call of duty 2 etc don’t look anything at all like the games kids grow up on today.

      By comparison, the games of today are far more immersive, realistic looking and intense. The stuff we had looked obviously fake. Easy to distinguish as fake.

      The first time I played F.E.A.R in the dark, I was so immersed in the game I was physically terrified at some points. My brother did the same and hit his knee on the table trying to dodge the guy who smacks you with a bit of wood in the first level. The games we played as children could never invoke those kinds of feelings. GTA1 could never reach the amount of immersion in GTA IV.

      I think the more we push for realism in games, the more credibility games causing violence arguments will get. Especially considering the ignorant masses who buy everything for their kids often without question.

  • Okay – The first 2 Questions should be – Why is there a LOADED GUN within reach of an 8 year old child and WHY was this 8 YEAR OLD CHILD playing a R18 Game? Fucking Stupid Media.

    • Well actually the game is MA15+, but over in the states it is 18+… Sorry couldn’t help myself 🙂

      But yes, I read this last night, and all I thought of was ‘here we go again’. As a video game retailer, it saddens me whenever I hear these stories. These games are not meant for children at all, so why are parents letting them play them? Is it because of peer pressure, that “oh, Jimmy has it, so why can’t I?” Or is it simply because of the fact that when they go into stores that sell video games, they just want to get out, so they will take whatever they have chosen first?

      The other issue is do we as retailers attempt to educate parents about the content that are in these games? Do we try to make the point of that it’s not suitable for their kids? Do we encourage parents to at least sit down with their kids and experience the content for themselves, so that at the very least, they can explain to a child what is happening in an adult situation, and why it is not a good thing.

      But as many people have already pointed out, the underlying issue about this is why is there a loaded firearm in the house, that is accessible to a child? Isn’t there some law that requires you to keep them separate from each other? And if video games are to blame, as is violent media, why do we let our kids watch it, and why do we not educate our kids on the difference between reality and fantasy? Why is it that if your child is going to grow up around a fire arm, why not teach them about it, why it’s a dangerous weapon, and when is it ok to use them, and not to use them?

      • The other issue is do we as retailers attempt to educate parents about the content that are in these games? Do we try to make the point of that it’s not suitable for their kids? Do we encourage parents to at least sit down with their kids and experience the content for themselves, so that at the very least, they can explain to a child what is happening in an adult situation, and why it is not a good thing.

        That would be responsible parenting and that can’t be encouraged in the USA. Much better to find something easily blamed

      • As retailers, yes. Absolutely. When I worked at EB I would tell patents exactly what was in that MA game if they were buying it for their child. I didn’t make any friends in the under-15 demographic, but I was constantly taken aback by how little patents knew about how much the content and presentation of gaming had changed since they pumped twenty cent pieces into Pac Man as teenagers down the milk bar.
        I once offended a parent by saying “lines of cocaine” in front of their child when describing the content of GTA IV – I was blown away by the fact that they’d prefer to have that sort of thing presented to their ten year old completely devoid of context, than to hear it for potentially the first time from a guy behind a counter.
        I lost more than a few sales appeasing my conscience, and at the end of the day I totally support the fact that it’s the parent’s choice. I considered it an important part of my job to inform parents of the content every time regardless of how often they came into the store, but ultimately to leave the decision making to them.

      • These games are not meant for children at all, so why are parents letting them play them? Is it because of peer pressure, that “oh, Jimmy has it, so why can’t I?” Or is it simply because of the fact that when they go into stores that sell video games, they just want to get out, so they will take whatever they have chosen first?

        I would say that yes, peer pressure is probably part of the problem, also ignorant parents that don’t know what a game’s about and have absolutely zero interest in finding out, that’s what the kid asked for so that’s what they get them, it’s just easier.

        Lastly, there’s some parents that just don’t care. Back when GTA: San Andreas first came out, I was in an EB Games store and witnessed a 10 year old pestering his dad for the game, the sales assistant repeatedly advised against it, but he just didn’t care and bought it anyway, because it gets the kid off his back.

      • I remember as a kid, I used to watch Robocop, Highlander, and a bunch of other violent movies. Thing was, my parents, despite working 2 jobs each, somehow still found the time to sit me down and teach me right from wrong. It never ceases to amaze me how parents blame everything else for how their kids turn out. I know there are some real parents out there but they seem so far and few in between

        • My parents were the same. I was playing GTA at a young age, even playing Conker’s Bad Fur Day when I was about 5 or 6. My parents always sat me down and explained it (although, left the “subtler” sexual content of Conker’s Bad Fur Day slide; it went over my head anyway), and I understood that what was going on in the games was wrong, and that’s why it was funny and outrageous.

          I’m no parent, hell, I’m not even really an adult, so it’s not my place to tell people how to raise their kids, but damn, explaining things and educating your own children isn’t so hard, and it can really go a long way. If you leave too many things in the dark, they become curious and find out anyway, probably in a way you didn’t want them to. Kid’s are only stupid if you make them so.

          I do understand that showing a kid GTA or something of the like at a young age isn’t really appropriate though. I wasn’t negatively affected by it, but I can’t say that for everyone.

      • I’m not sure if this applies to video games, but I know for a fact that it is illegal for an employee to sell alcohol to an adult if it’s evident that they’re buying it for someone underage – YOU can be fined if that’s what they end up doing. If you have any suspicion that that’s what they’re doing you must refuse them service.

        So, does the same apply to video game sales staff? And the parents? If a parent buys an MA15+ game explicitly for their child who is under 15 years old, is the parent or the staff member that sold them the game (or both) breaching the law?

        • No. Under the current classification, MA games cannot be sold to people under 15 unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. So long as the parent buys it for them, irrespective of whether they sit and watch them play or not, the sale is legal. Making sure the parent knew the content was part of what I considered, for lack of a better term, my duty of care as a responsible employee.

  • Sensationalism at its finest.

    Ps. I always found that particular track suit combo and colour palate detestable on Niko. A nice black turtleneck and a pair of chinos was much more stylish.

  • I’ve already had a rant about this somewhere else, but yeah the first thing that springs to my mind is why was he playing a game rated for mature audiences anyway, as well as being in a house with access to a loaded firearm.

    Still, that doesn’t make for a good news story does it?

  • You don’t get points for killing people, what games even have points now? Also why the fuck does a 8yr old have access to a loaded gun? Thats the real question

    • I do wish points were more prominent again though. Imagine a game like Assassin’s Creed with a point system; might actually give you a real reason to use the tools the dev’s give you.

  • It’s always going to be the video game’s fault or heavy metal’s fault. Scapegoats have been used since the beginning of time (slight exaggeration, but in the spirit of the story) rather than taking on the underlying causes of situations such as this, or blatant causes such as a loaded gun being easily obtained by an 8 year old. As you say, blaming video games is ‘sexy’ and sensationalist and like it or not, the media is in the ratings business and not responsible journalism so they will always take the sensationalist route and spin half truths that grab people’s attention rather than reporting a more mundane story that people will have no interest in.

    Personally, I blame this culture entirely on Murdoch and it won’t go away. People will turn on what they don’t understand and what’s been drilled into their head as being an inherent evil in society. Video games and heavy metal are a bigger killer than smoking and drinking if you believe what you read and hear

    • Video games are a threat to Mr Murdochs assets. They’re playing games on their televisions instead of watching his sensationalist bullshit that they pass off as journalism.

  • I bet if the kid was watching a violent movie and then shot his grandma it would be a totally different story but just because it was a video game now its the game industry’s fault. Besides how would an 8 year old have access to a loaded gun in the first place, stupid really.

  • Saw this as a video on Google+ (but can’t watch at work due to being behind a proxy) and I’m thinking to myself “This has to be a fox news thing” – low and behold, the fine mainstream media.

  • Well If was to take a page from the news reporters books and just assume something as fact I would say that the boy played GTA then grab old grandma gun and ran around the house going bang you are dead to all the pretend police and gangsters. When grandma demanded the gun back he went bang your dead for realz this time.

    • That might sound like the likely case but why was there a loaded gun in a mobile home….more to the point why was the safety turned off (unless it was a revolver)…

      Now all I need to see and hear (I don’t have access to the videos at work) is serial Rockstar/Take-Two Interactive pest Jack Thompson getting onto mainstream media and pushing that Rockstar makes “Murder Simulator” games called GTA and trying to push for the game to be banned.

      • depending on the age of the revolver they can have a safety. but yes why was there a loaded gun within easy access of an 8 year old. the US will never change its gun laws without a massive revolution but that kind of revolution is what brought the 2nd amendment in the first place

  • The sad part is that the real issues that need to be addressed simply go unchecked because people are content with taking the easy route.

    • I… always go for a cultural/science win. c.c (Well. Once they realize they can’t breach my technologically superior defenses. Or leave their islands. On account of the battleship blockades.)

      • i also use this tactic. contain and control. i will normall clear whatever continent i am on so it is all my nation

        • I wonder if this is an Australian mind-set thing. 🙂 What with us basically being a nation-continent.

  • In Australia we don’t have these issues constantly like America.
    We are not stupid enough to have guns (that are loaded) lying around for 8 year olds while letting them play adult games.
    We also don’t have these wack jobs on TV missing the point while being called experts.
    F*** America. They are there own worst enemy.

    • We also don’t have these wack jobs on TV missing the point while being called experts.

      You’ve obviously never watched Today Tonight or A Current Affair.

  • Shot 90-yr-old after playing videogame

    incorrect. it should read:

    Shot 90-yr-old after picking up an unsecured and loaded firearm

    funny how news outlets can never seem to get the actual events in order.

    unless……….. due to exposure to some previously unknown radiation type, the kid mutated until his own goddamn hand turned into a gun & the console itself developed sentience & gained the ability of hypnotic suggestion, so the kid was then compelled to shoot his grandmother.

    yeah…. that’s probably the only scenario where videogames could conceivably be blamed.

    Edit: spelling.

    • its an abbreviation.

      years ago, this town was the happiest place in America, and was called South Laughter.

      over the years, it got shortened to Sth. Laughter, an then to S. Laughter.
      then someone in North Laughter got hold of a videogame & wiped Nth. Laughter off the map.

      So the residents of Sth. Laughter decided to just run it together – Slaughter.

  • These people make me sick. The only people who feel this kind of thing are us Aussies. We will get the bans, the ‘refused classification’.

    The game is exactly that. A game. What is it rated in the USA? I know for damn sure it’s not suitable for 8 year olds! Because he played it though, it’s the fault of the game? And if there was no game involved at all, would we blame the gun?

    Obama can’t change gun laws there because you gangsters and red necks love your 2nd amendment too bloody much. Then when something like this happens, blame the video game! It obviously isn’t the gun guys, nor the parent/grandparent that left a loaded gun accessible to an eight year old, and allowed an eight year old to play the game. No, it’s the game that made him do it.

    And I would point at it too if I were him. Imagine all the people asking him, “did that game make you do this sweetie”? As a kid a would say yes, thinking it’s an easy way to stay out of trouble.

    Confiscate America’s guns, not it’s video games if you want to solve this problem!

    • Confiscate America’s guns, not it’s video games if you want to solve this problem!

      During the prohibition era people were still able to get there hands on alcohol.

      Banning/confiscating guns won’t stop people getting access to them.

      • There would be a significant decrease in gun crime for one. Also, if guns were illegal, sure, people could get their hands on one, but it would be MUCH more difficult for an eight year old.

  • It’s a deeper issue than that. Having access to firearms is an inalienable human right for citizens in the States, and everything else is secondary to that fact. You’ll never get guns out of households in America – and for a broadcaster to suggest that doing so might prevent such tragic occurrences would damage their credibility with a quantifiable percentage of their audience.
    It doesn’t surprise me that the real issue – that of access to firearms – isn’t what’s being debated here. It saddens me, yes – but surprises me? No. This is not a new story. Another couple of months will go by, another minor will kill someone, the American media will play the violent videogames card, and we’ll have the exact same debate in Kotaku’s comments section.
    American culture, mindset, and attitude to firearms isn’t going to change. What will change, however, is what they attribute the blame to in order to defend their constitutional rights. At least the right to free speech is also constitutionally protected – so, whilst guns aren’t going anywhere (for better or worse), neither is adult-oriented entertainment.

    • But despite the hundreds of millions spent on research to determine whether or not video games are the cause of violent behaviour, the result has always come back that they are not.

      It is merely the easiest excuse for one of America’s biggest problems, it’s gun laws and culture.

      • … I know. That’s pretty much my point. The tendency is to attribute blame, rather than looking for the root cause.

  • Good article Jason, I like that you pointed out that we can’t definitively say that GTA had no impact on this kid before he did what he did.

    Far too often we see games journalists get overly defensive and make absolute statements about the impacts of violent games, the bottom line is any kind of media (good, bad or otherwise) will likely have some influence on the behaviour of VERY young children. Making over the top statements sometimes makes us look almost as bad as the nutters you see in the videos above.

    At the end of the day there’s only one overriding factor here and it’s simply bad parenting. An 8 year old child shouldn’t be allowed to cook his own dinner let alone be left in a dangerous and unsupervised environment and if he’s sitting around playing an R rated game with a loaded firearm nearby then he’s clearly not being looked after.

    There’s plenty of things in this world that are unsafe or unsuitable for children, you can’t ban them all. If you don’t look after kids, then things like this will happen.

    • I think games journalists *have* to get overly defensive to try and drown out the huge presence of the counter-argument. It’s a bit difficult fighting a completely irrational party with a reasonable and balanced retort.

  • I’m gonna give a loaded pistol to my eight year old. According to the media it’s perfectly okay for him to have one. Totally not letting him anywhere near GTA of course.

  • This is just… stupid. America doesn’t have the right to complain about this sort of shit happening when there are products such as my first gun aimed at kids. You have problems with your gun laws America get your shit together and do something about it, the fact that it is apparently legal to sell guns to an age group that isn’t even old enough to buy them should be your first warning sign

    EDIT: after looking up an article the kid apparently thought it was a toy gun and it was in a purse or something. Feel pretty sorry for that kid he’s not going to get over this very easily

  • This smells of PR…
    PR for GTA V. I think Rockstar have learned over the years, that all news is good news as it gets their game/name out in the mindset of people.

    Is it a tragedy? Sure, but how many more people will be aware that a game called GTA is coming out…

  • Hopefully with the next generation of parents this will die down, considering a greater majority understand video games and can decide what is appropriate for our children seeing they probably play the games too.

    Seriously, this debacle is like blaming Pacman for obesity.

    • The “next generation” of parents are Helen Lovejoy on crack.
      Kids are bubblewrapped in their own little sterilised world. They don’t get ranked in anything. They have non-competitive sport. They don’t give out prizes for coming first because it upsets the other kids that lost.
      They get presents when its someone elses birthday so they “don’t feel bad or upset” that they didn’t get one.
      Parents go rushing like its the end of the world when their kid falls over in the backyard “OMG!! Are you ok!!!!?”
      And all these kids have ADHD and are allergic to everything because their parents won’t let them touch a speck of dirt anywhere.

      • I agree completely. A friend of mine’s daughter is in year two and she gets showered with meaningless awards. They get rewarded for being average. How are they supposed to cope when they grow up and the world reminds them day in and day out that they’re not special? Learning to deal with disappointment is a crucial life lesson for a developing young mind. The world won’t make concessions for mediocrity, and the earlier they come to terms with that fact, the better.

  • This is not a problem that will go away this generation. The American mindset needs to change from “access to firearms is an inalienable right granted by the constitution” to “that amendment was made under completely different circumstances that are no longer relevant, and should be voided”. And that won’t change until they get some open-minded individuals in the leaders’ seats.

    Or, someone needs to ask the question: “Why is it that only American kids are susceptible to the supposed effects of violent video games?” Of course, this would require Americans to acknowledge the rest of the world exists…

  • GTA is no more violent than any number of movies over the last 20 odd years…

    The cause and effect, internally, would be the same: See person shooting other person, see gun, pick it up and “play” with it by shooting grandma..

    That’s pretty much how I think it would have gone down.. as a mimicking behavior off the screen.. and sure, GTA IV was the most recent thing that the boy saw.. but it could have just as easily have been Die Hard or Rambo or something else..

    The game itself did not ‘train’ the child to become a murderer.. they just acted out the scene from the screen as a ‘play’ activity…. heck, they might have even done it many times previously with a fake, play gun (cap gun etc) and didn’t realise the gun they picked up was real.

  • question 5

    Your Grandmother invites you to tea, but you’re surprised when she gives you a pistol and orders you to kill another vault resident. What do you do?

    1. Shoot grandma

    2. Shoot grandma

    3. Shoot grandma

    4. Shoot grandma

    Turns out grandma was a huge fallout 3 fan who enjoyed reenacting the questions from the goat test with her family members, sadly the child was desensitised to violence by gta 4 to the point that he jumped at the chance to shoot grandma.

  • I’m sure this has been stated before, but has anyone in the media mentioned how dangerous it was to leave a loaded firearm around children?

    Sounds like a monumental failure of parenting to me.

  • Fact: 0% of gun violence has been conclusively linked to video games.
    Fact: 100% of gun violence has been linked to gun access.

  • Sick of games becoming a scapegoat for other things that are CLEARLY the issue. The US’s accessibility to firearms is quite often the issue. More importantly why did an 8 year old have access to:
    A) A loaded handgun
    B) Grand Theft Auto
    Quite often people just choose the easiest thing to blame, not bad parenting and not their beloved firearm rights.

  • Awards points for playing. I feel ripped off never having gotten any points. Only cash. 🙁

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