Ever since the December 14 shooting tragedy in Newtown, CT the Obama administration has been scrambling to find a solution to the ongoing, seemingly increasing issue of wanton gun violence in America. The two sides of this argument are starkly divided: One believes that no amount of blood and gore absorbed via television, games, and film can turn a person into a dangerous killer and the causes lie elsewhere, while the other believes that America’s abundance of guns is not the problem and instead pins the issue on the aforementioned blood and gore. As a result of this schism, President Obama has had to tread very carefully as he decides a course of action, but we’ve finally received some word on what the President intends.
This morning President Obama held a press conference in which he presented to Congress 23 separate executive orders designed to combat the scourge of gun violence. Included among these were calls for universal background checks on prospective gun buyers, a cap on the amount of ammo one can legally fit inside a magazine, and increased restrictions on assault weaponry.
But buried amongst what were instantly hailed as controversial moves from the President, was something mostly overlooked, yet undeniably intriguing. The President presented an order directing the US Center for Disease Control to conduct rigorous new research into the causes of gun violence – specifically, whether or not a steady diet of violent media (read: games, TV, and movies) can actually alter a person’s behavior to the point that they might harm themselves or someone else.
“We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence,” the President stated. “Congress should fund research into the effects violent video games have on young minds.” To that end, President Obama has called on Congress to pledge $10 million to the CDC’s research efforts.
Now before any of you argue that the Obama administration is drastically cracking down on video games here, keep in mind that games themselves are a protected form of free speech, at least according to the ladies and gentleman of the United States Supreme Court. President Obama is legally incapable of outlawing games of any kind – okay, it’s possible that he could outlaw games that promote treason or some other loophole in our First Amendment laws, but that’s an unlikely scenario — but he does seem keen on finding a rational, measured solution to the undeniable problem of gun violence in America. These steps he’s proposing are calculated and subtle, which is both what we’d expect from our skittish, mercurial bipartisan government and likely the only real move the President could have made. We dislike the idea of video game censorship as much as the next group of journalists who get paid to write about such things, but today’s press conference feels less like a harbinger of doom for the gaming industry and more like exactly what it is: A simple call for more, better research into the little understood effects of violence in video games.