Searching around for any possible cause of the Newtown massacre other than guns, the gun lovers have found plenty to write about:
- School Prayer: If only we had placated Moloch properly, he would not have gotten upset at us and taken the kids as human sacrifices.
- Gay marriage and abortion.
- Not enough guns: If only the first graders had been armed and armor piercing rounds were legal.
- 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.
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.