Following our nation’s most recent school shooting, this time in Parkland, Fla., President Trump is blaming video games for our gun problem.
Trump spoke at the White House meeting on school safety Thursday, Feb. 22. “We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it.” Trump said, “And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
It is not uncommon for politicians to begin blaming video games after a mass shooting. As early as the 1940s, New York City mayor Fiorello La Guardia blamed pinball, illegal in the city for more than three decades, for increasing interest in criminality. After Columbine, Bill Clinton launched a study into possible associations between violent video games and gun violence. Mitt Romney claimed “pornography and violence” in music, movies, TV and video games was to blame for the Virginia Tech massacre. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA) called video games a “corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”
But these claims are not supported by any evidence. In fact, research supports a complete lack of association between violent video games and gun violence. There are countries that spend more money on video games the United States, such as China and Japan, that still have lower rates of gun violence. In 2014, there were six gun related deaths in Japan compared to 33,599 in the United States.
The United States Supreme Court also calls BS. In Brown v. Entertainment Merchandise Industry, it was ruled that California could not ban the sales of violent video games to children because there is no evidence that violent video games harmed children or lead children to commit shootings. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the concurring opinion, “Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media.”
For many people, video games are a place where people find community. Many of the most popular games are multiplayer, and it is not uncommon for friendships to be forged through playing video games together. It is time for our politicians to accept that video games are clearly not the cause of our gun violence problems and to start examining far more likely culprits –– for example, the ease with which any American citizen can access a weapon designed exclusively for mass slaughter.
This article first appeared in the Friday, March 2, 2018, Edition of The Echo.