Parkland, Florida mass shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz — who currently faces 17 counts of murder for his alleged shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — was able legally to purchase the semi-automatic rifle he used to carry out the attack without a waiting period or permit. The AR-15 he used is widely available in the United States and exists for the sole purpose of killing human beings, but according to some Republican politicians, it’s violent video games that should be blamed for mass shootings in America rather than gun laws.
Florida congressman Brian Mast spoke with NPR regarding the attack on Friday morning. Mast downplayed the effect that stricter gun laws would have had on stopping the mass shooting, instead blaming entertainment for its alleged role in encouraging such an act.
“What do we do with the biggest pusher of violence?” Mast said in the interview. “The biggest pusher of violence is, hands down, Hollywood movies [and] hands down, the video game market. When you look at Call of Duty — when you look at movies like John Wick — the societal impact of people being desensitized to killing in ways that are different than how someone on the battlefield is desensitized is troubling, and very different.”
Mast has received donations from the National Rifle Association in the past, an organization that has been called “the most powerful special interest group in Washington.” His comments were largely echoed by Republican Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, who said the executives at game publishers, record labels, and movie studios had to “step up.” Back in October, Bevin dismissed a call for gun control, saying you can’t “regulate evil.” He said back in 2015 that he was “proudly endorsed” by the NRA.
Australia’s history offers a counterexample to Bevin’s suggestion, however. Following a 1996 change to its gun laws that banned several types of firearms and instituted a federal “buy-back” program,” homicide rates have declined by 20 percent.
In 2015, the American Psychological Association published a study finding a link between violent video games and increased aggression, but the organization didn’t find a conclusive link between violent video games and violent behavior. The accusations against video game publishers are not new, with current Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointing the finger at video games following the Columbine massacre in 1999. Nor has it always been a Republican position, with Democratic senator Joe Lieberman invoking the 1993 senate hearings that led to the creation of the ESRB over Mortal Kombat‘s violence.
According to the Associated Press, Nikolas Cruz was a member of a white supremacist paramilitary organization that wished to turn Florida into a white ethno-state. The group has attempted to distance itself from Cruz following the attack.