Homeland Security

Violent Video Games Not to Blame for Mass Shootings

Mass shootings are horrific. They are indictments of man’s capability to do evil. They remind us about how much pain, loss, and damage a single person can inflict, when that person is determined to cause chaos. Unfortunately, as humans and politicians, knee-jerk reactions are also par for the course.

Talking heads propose solutions and suggest causal links before even the identities of the victims, heroes, and perpetrators are known. These solutions and causal links often, not surprisingly, have little to do with the actual cause of the mass shooting—the perpetrator.

Politicians, particularly, have a couple go-to links: guns and violent video games. Both suggestions ignore the human element, distracting from real, potential solution. Both also share a fundamental failure. Inanimate objects cannot cause a mass shooting.

Not to mention, at least as the suggested link to violent video games, this is neither new nor accurate. The trend to blame violent video games started shortly after the Columbine school shootings in 1999. Hillary Clinton, during her Senate campaign in the early- to mid-2000s increased the anti-video game rhetoric. In 2013, after the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings, President Obama demanded that Congress fund research looking at the connection between violent video games and gun violence.

Studies, though, tell a very different story. In a 2016 study, researchers from Western Michigan University found that the connection between video games and violence were “very weak in comparison with other [factors], they were mostly non-significant after you included those other controls.”

Rather than video games, researchers concluded that home life and parenting were more significant factors when predicting violence than video games. According to the primary researcher “parental attachment between the youth and the parent, the monitoring activities of the parents … and parental enforcement of the rules were all strong predictors. Seeing or hearing violence in the home and experiencing violence in the home were also powerful predictors. So home life seems to matter more than just playing violent video games.”

Similarly, a recent study in the United Kingdom concluded that “violent video game engagement … is not associated with observable variability in adolescents’ aggressive behavior.” The researchers reached this conclusion after noting that “[n]early all young people in the developed world now play video games” and that politicians routinely blame video games for mass shootings.

In short, there is no link between violent video games and gun violence. The better predictor of violent conduct is family life. Any solution to mass shootings should focus, in significant part, on the factors in a perpetrators family life that would lead to violent outbursts.

The attempts to blame gun violence on video games has seemed disingenuous since the beginning. But now that there are studies not only disproving the hypothesis but establishing the predominance of other factors, such as family life, politicians would be better served by waiting for the facts.

Allow the investigations to run their courses to determine the true causes of these mass shootings and focus on the victims and heroes, rather than debunked connections.


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