Gun violence rampant in movies for US teens, study shows

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Gun violence is on the rise in US movies and has more than tripled since 1985 in those rated as acceptable for teenagers 13 and older, according to a study out on Monday.

The amount of such violence seen in modern movies rated PG-13 even exceeded that in films rated R for adults last year, said the findings by American and Dutch university researchers in the US journal Pediatrics. The findings raise concern about the impact that seeing shootings in fictional movie scenes may have on youths in real life, since a large body of research has shown that viewing violent films can increase aggression.

"We do not draw a direct causal link to the recent rise in school and other public shootings, but the rise in gun violence in films certainly coincides with those events," said co-author Daniel Romer, director of the Adolescent Communication Institute at the Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers found that by analysing the number of violent sequences in 945 films - all of them picked from the top 30 films each year from 1950 to 2012 - that characters were using guns to kill people more often than they had in decades past.

"Gun violence was defined as shooting a gun and hitting a living target," said the study, noting that weaponry such as rocket-propelled grenades and artillery were not counted, nor were hunting scenes. They found that gun violence has been increasing in all films and more than doubled since 1950.

But violence has spiked specifically in PG-13 movies, a rating that was introduced in 1985.

"Since 2009 it has been as high or higher than R-rated films," said the study.

Last year, PG-13 movies actually had more gun violence than the average among those rated R for mature audiences. That meant that the gun violence appeared on average in the top R-rated films last year in about 2.15 five-minute segments per hour. In PG-13 movies, the average rate was about three five-minute segments per hour.

Some of the recent PG-13 movies that were analysed for the study and "had a lot of gun violence", according to Mr Romer, were The Dark Knight (2008), Terminator Salvation (2009), Inception (2010), Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), The Avengers (2012), The Amazing Spiderman (2012), and Taken 2 (2012).

"It is interesting to contrast some of the movies that came out earlier and were rated R but that have sequels that are more recently rated PG-13," he told AFP in an e-mail.

"These include the Terminator movies that were rated R in earlier incarnations... as well as the Die Hard series which in a more recent version, Live Free or Die Hard (2007), was rated PG-13."