Video may have killed the radio star, but it didn’t kill those kids at Sandy Hook

Searching around for any possible cause of the Newtown massacre other than guns, the gun lovers have found plenty to write about:

  1. School Prayer: If only we had placated Moloch properly, he would not have gotten upset at us and taken the kids as human sacrifices.
  2. Gay marriage and abortion.
  3. Not enough guns: If only the first graders had been armed and armor piercing rounds were legal.
  4. It’s the video games, stupid: Time to ban the XBox.

The idea that violent video games might be playing a role here should not be dismissed out of hand. The question is what policy outcomes should flow from such a conclusion.

The same video games that are sold in the US are sold in the UK, Germany and Japan. None of which have seen a gun murder spree similar to Newtown since the Dunblane massacre in Scotland (and none of which see the regular violence that US witnesses on a monthly basis). The UK government didn’t ban the video games, they banned the guns.

video games

Video games via Shutterstock

I guess it’s possible that a murder spree will be the result if you put a gun that looks like the one used in a violent spree killing video game in the hands of a mentally unstable person, who has been playing said game without interruption for several days.

But the critical link here isn’t the video game, it is the gun. The video game might act as a catalyst and increase the rate at which the massacres occur. But without the gun (and possibly a cultural predilection towards violence) there is no massacre.

We can look into the studies and see if playing video games make a person more or less likely to engage in violent behavior but this is only going to give us the average outcome. If the gun control debate was moved by the average outcome, guns of all types would be banned already. according to the LA Times, over 270,000 people were killed by guns between 2001 and 2010. That is an Aurora and two Newtowns every single day.

Acting out scenes from video games is not the only possible cause of the apparent increase in these spree killings. The Aurora and Newtown shooters both wore body armor which might well have encouraged the thought of perpetrating a massacre by creating an impression of invulnerability.

Determining if the increase in killings is significant and if so identifying possible causes is important but does not change the fact that without the guns there is no gun massacre. The Chinese knife-man who went on a rampage wounded 22 children but all of them survived.

What a link between violent video games and the massacres does mean is that the issue is going to keep returning with each new massacre. We need to make the members of Congress more afraid of being caught on the wrong side of the gun control issue next time there is a massacre than they are of the NRA. We have to turn a 100% approval rating from the NRA into a political liability rather than an asset.

I would be more than happy to ban violent video games if it would stop future Newtown events. But the problem isn’t caused by the video game fantasies, the problem is caused by the people who provide the tools to act them out in real life. The problem is caused by the guns.

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  • citizen_spot

    Language has power, and the gun lobby is thrilled that everyone is using the term “gun control” instead of gun regulation. We have to get a license to drive a car. We have to get liability insurance. We have to register the vehicles. Why can’t this level of sensible regulation be imposed on gun owners? The second amendment describes a well regulated militia. We need to discuss firearm regulations, not “control”.

  • therling

    I studied under the tutelage of one of the nation’s experts on violent TV and children. The best they could come up with after 20 years of study was that “some children may be affected by some content in some way.” Hardly conclusive. In fact, it’s more likely that people with violent tendencies are drawn to violent media content than for the media to “make people” more violent. The crazy thing I see lately is that 2nd Amendment strict adherents are so willing to give way on the 1st Amendment, which has no qualifiers such as a “well-regulated militia” clause.

  • Sweetie

    Normal people overestimate their objectivity and underestimate the role their conscious mind plays. Normal people suffer from the bystander effect. Normal people are willing to torture and even kill when ordered to (Milgram Experiment). Take a long look at the Stanford prison experiment before confidently talking as if normality equals sanity.

  • http://madisonleathersmith.com leathersmith

    The Bugles

  • monopole

    “I guess it’s possible that a murder spree will be the result if
    you put a gun that looks like the one used in a violent spree killing
    video game in the hands of a mentally unstable person, _who has been
    playing said game without interruption for several days_.”

    No, at that point the mentally unstable person is killed by the video game:
    http://driftglass.blogspot.com/2005/08/sorry-lil-darlins.html
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4137782.stm
    No wonder South Korea is peaceful!

  • ckestann

    Armor piercing rounds are legal. Also if you are playing a video game or watching a violent movie and it motivates you act violently you have a mental disorder. Normal people can distinguish fantasy from reality.
    I don’t believe there is any one thing that will make a dent in the level of violence in our society. Much stricter gun control is a start. As a gun owner I’m willing to accept whatever terms people smarter than me can come up with.

  • http://twitter.com/brundlefly Shannon Hubbell

    It’s simultaneously bizarre and totally expected that people are making a big deal out of Lanza’s game playing. For Pete’s sake, he played StarCraft. StarCraft is not some sort of murder simulator. It’s a military strategy game. He might as well have been playing chess or Risk. It also has major elements of resource management, and as far as I know he didn’t mine those kids for minerals.

    You would also expect South Korea, for whom StarCraft is essentially the national pastime (Seriously. Matches are televised), to have way more shootings than we do. They don’t. This is absurd.

  • Sweetie

    If (A + B) = C, then you need A and B. If you take away the guns, will they make homemade explosives instead?

    We need to switch the censorship policies in this country. Violence should be treated like nudity and sex is, and nudity and sex should be treated like violence currently is.

    But, the war machine doesn’t want people to channel their sexual energies sexually. They want people to make war not love.

    We have a war culture. We have more imprisoned per capita than any other nation. We have a larger military than anyone else. We have Hollywood making films glamorizing torture. We sell more weapons than anyone else. We celebrate the murder of a man without a trial. The military make recruitment video games for the purpose of getting people to want to get their hands on weapons. Are you planning to take away the military’s guns, too?

    In a war culture, it’s not surprising that people get killed.

    Obama and his audience think joking about murdering teens with predator drones is great.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWKG6ZmgAX4

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