It's been two weeks since 17 teenagers were shot to death at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and tensions are understandably still very high. While students, parents, and politicians argue about the factors that sparked the massacre, authority figures are not treating public "jokes" about gun violence lightly.
Earlier this week, a 16-year-old high school student from a Chicago suburb was arrested for making a "specific threat" against his school. According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, the student (who is a minor and can't be named) was irritated over a false threat that closed his school on Friday. Put off further by the subsequent chatter on social media, he declared via a Snapchat video "Y'all need to shut up about school shootings or I'll do one."
Another student watching the video reported the statement. The youth was arrested and charged with felony disorderly conduct at DuPage County juvenile court, where Judge Robert Anderson confiscated his cell phone and ordered him to stop playing violent video games. No weapons were found at the boy's house following a police search, and his parents say they don't keep guns in the house.
While it's not uncommon for people (teenagers especially) to suffer consequences for making stupid, ill-timed "jokes" suggesting further violence following a tragedy, it's very rare for a judge to withdraw video games as precautionary punishment in these instances. The suburban youth was reportedly playing a "violent video game" when he recorded his Snapchat video, which seemingly inspired Judge Anderson to bar him from the pastime. Failure to comply will result in fines or more serious consequences.
Judge Anderson emphasized the ban is on violent games, and that non-violent games—Mario Kart was cited as a specific example—are fine.
Kotaku asked Judge Anderson's office for specifics about the case, and whether the Judge has issued similar verdicts in the past. Kotaku was denied new information as the case is still ongoing (the next court date is March 12).
There's been a great deal of back-and-forth about whether video game violence should take any blame for school shootings. Though studies repeatedly show there's no correlation between the two, not everyone's convinced—including people in positions of authority.
These are very tense times, and multiple threats followed the February 14 massacre (including, as previously mentioned, two threats against the arrested youth's own school). Maybe telling teenagers what they shouldn't do is a futile exercise, but here it is anyway. Don't joke about shooting up your school, or about using a weapon on anyone, anywhere. It's not clever, and it's not funny.