Do Videogames Lead to Gun Violence?
Trump blames “gruesome and grisly video games” for mass shooting
by Ronan Molloy
Image courtesy of Jarek Tuszyński via Wikimedia Commons
This July, more than 30 people were killed in two of the deadliest shootings in America this year. In less than 24 hours, El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio were host to tragedies that brought the total number of mass shooting fatalities to almost 250 this year, with an average of over one mass shooting per day. As the number of active shooter incidents and the number of inflicted casualties has increased over the past twenty years, discussions over the causes have intensified.
President Trump argued to end the glorification of violence in American society, “including the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace”.
Whilst the specific motive for Connor Betts and his attack in Dayton remains unclear, a manifesto was released online just 27 minutes before the attack in El Paso. Although the 2400-word document was posted anonymously, investigators are “reasonably confident” that it was the perpetrator, 21-year-old Patrick Wood Crusius, who posted it to the imageboard site 8chan. In the manifesto, Crusius talks repeatedly about Hispanic immigration and its impact on the USA, attempting to justify his actions as a defence against a “cultural and ethnic replacement” due to the “Hispanic invasion of Texas”. Throughout, he is bigoted, ignorant and loudly racist.
Blaming video games is a sloppy attempt to divert attention from more likely explanations.
Crusius mentions towards the end of the manifesto that it is not cowardly to attack low-security targets, such as the Walmart in El Paso, and continues, “don’t attack heavily guarded areas to fulfil your super-soldier COD fantasy.” This single mention of the Call of Duty video game franchise led to the creation of a scapegoat. In his public address following the shooting, President Trump argued to end the glorification of violence in American society, “including the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace”. The mainstream media also provided a platform for the re-emergence of the debate, “do video games lead to gun violence?”.
The most glaringly obvious answer is the lack of gun control laws and the abundance of guns in the country.
The debate exploded in the 90s when Senator Liberman led congressional hearings probing video game companies over realistic violence. Whilst this added fuel to the fire, to their credit, these hearings ensured an industry-wide content rating policy which still stands today. However, incidents like the Columbine High School Massacre (committed by two students known to play the game Doom) have ensured the relationship between video games and gun violence remains highly researched. This research has shown conclusively that video games do not lead to gun violence. It has been found that gaming can, to some degree, lead to annoyance and aggression. Whilst all gamers will be familiar with the frustration that comes with a misplaced Tetrimino or some ill-timed lag this, at the most, leads to a desk slam or a thrown controller, not an urge to commit an act of violence towards another human. There is indeed an occasional crossover in demographic between mass shooters and gamers (young, white, sometimes solitary, males) but research contests any causal links. Blaming video games is a sloppy attempt to divert attention from more likely explanations.
[T]he real victims are the people who will die in future mass shootings due to smoke and mirrors tactics used by those in power...
This begs the question: why are video games blamed, and what are the real reasons for mass shootings? Mass shootings are uniquely frequent in America, so there must be a somewhat uniquely American root cause. The most glaringly obvious answer is the lack of gun control laws and the abundance of guns in the country. The weapons used in Dayton and El Paso were both purchased legally and with ease, something not possible in other countries where video games are popular.
America is also home to a culture and a constitution which grants citizens the right to use firearms to protect themselves - when perverted this can have devastating effects. Earlier this year, after the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, thousands of gun owners willingly handed over their weapons to the authorities in a buyback scheme organized to decrease the number of firearms in the country. Time will tell if this was a successful government initiative, however, it shows the willingness of the nation to reform itself in the face of a crisis.
Video games will remain a scapegoat for the root of gun violence for the near future. This may have a somewhat damaging effect on the industry and the individuals who play video games, but the real victims are the people who will die in future mass shootings due to smoke and mirrors tactics used by those in power who refuse to reform gun control legislation.