Violent Video Games Debate Continues After Newtown Massacre

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Source: “4 Concerns and Tips About Violent Video Games,” education.com (accessed Feb. 20, 2013)
Violent video games may have motivated Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam Lanza, according to anonymous law enforcement sources quoted by CBS News. Lanza may have “kept score” as he murdered 20 first graders and six adults at the school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The sources claim that law enforcement recovered a “trove” of video games from the basement of Lanza’s home, and say he spent “countless hours there alone, in a private gaming room with the windows blacked out, honing his computer shooting skills.” Lanza wanted to “top the score” of Anders Breivik, a Norwegian man who killed 77 people in Norway in July 2011, and targeted Sandy Hook because it was the “easiest target” with the most number of people. Connecticut State Police spokesman Lt. Paul Vance called these reports “mere speculation” and said it was too early to know the killer’s motivation.

“In my mind, we do not need to be glorifying violence,” Connecticut State Representative Debra Lee Hovey said in a statement. “What about murder and mayhem have become entertainment in our society?” National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre stated in a televised news conference: “There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people through vicious, violent video games with names like ‘Bulletstorm,’ ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ ‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Splatterhouse.'”

Chris Ferguson, Associate Professor of Psychology and Criminal Justice at Texas A&M University, wrote in an article for TIME magazine that there is “no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth… In fact, during the years in which video games soared in popularity, youth violence has declined to 40-year lows… The notion that simply removing video games would make these events go away is as understandably tempting as it is nonsensical.”

As part of a broader effort to control firearms in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, President Obama called on Congress to “fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds.” On Jan. 24, 2013, Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) sponsored the “Violent Content Research Act,” which would arrange for the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games on children. In 2011, the Supreme Court struck down a California state law banning the sale of violent video games to minors. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for a 7-2 majority, said the law was “unprecedented and mistaken” and noted that even fairy tales have “no shortage of gore.”

The United States had a homicide by firearm rate of 3.2 per 100,000 population in 2010, 20 times the average rate of countries in the OECD. The United States currently has the eighth-highest video game spending rate in the world, at $40 per capita. Of the other countries with the top-ten highest video game spending rates, none have a homicide by firearm rate higher than 0.5 per 100,000 people.

Sources:

Winda Benedetti, “Newtown Lawmaker Calls for ‘Sin Tax’ on Violent Video Games,” nbcnews.com, Feb. 7, 2013

Winda Benedetti, “NRA: Video Game Industry ‘Sows Violence Against Its Own People,” nbcnews.com, Dec. 21, 2012

Christopher Ferguson, “Sandy Hook Shooting: Video Games Blamed, Again,” ideas.time.com, Dec. 20, 2012

Christopher Ferguson, “Video Games Didn’t Cause Newtown Rampage,” cnn.com, Feb. 20, 2013

Max Fisher, “Ten-Country Comparison Suggests There’s Little or No Link Between Video Games and Gun Murders,” washingtonpost.com, Dec. 17, 2012

Max Fisher, “Chart: The US Has Far More Gun-Related Killings Than Any Other Developed Country,” washingtonpost.com, Dec. 14, 2012

John Gaudiosi, “Entertainment Lawyer Stephen Smith Believes New Violent Gaming Legislation Could ‘Dumb Down’ Games,” forbes.com, Feb. 19, 2013

Hollywood Reporter, “Sandy Hook Shooter Motivated by Violent Video Games, Norway Massacre,” hollywoodreporter.com, Feb. 18, 2013

Brett Molina, “Obama Seeks Research Into Violent Video Games,” usatoday.com, Jan. 16, 2013

Bob Orr and Pat Milton, “Newtown Shooter Motivated by Norway Massacre, Sources Say,” cbsnews.com, Feb. 18, 2013

Amanda Terkel, “Nancy Pelosi: Video Games Are Not the Reason for Violence in America,” huffingtonpost.com, Feb. 10, 2013

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “Percentage of Homicides by Firearm, Number of Homicides by Firearm and Homicide by Firearm Rate Per 100,000 Population,” unodc.org (accessed Feb. 20, 2013)