This past weekend, separate mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton left 30 dead and dozens more wounded. President Trump addressed the shootings in a statement on Monday morning, placing part of the blame on violent video games.
“It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence,” said President Trump. “We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately.” The President said the”gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace” must be addressed to stop the “glorification of violence in our society.”
Video games have served as a common scapegoat when a mass shooting occurs, with the Columbine massacre of 1999 initially being blamed on shooters such as Doom, as well as shock rocker Marilyn Manson. However, experts don’t believe the motive for mass shootings stem from video games or other forms of media.
“It is the underlying interest in violence, which likely predates exposure to violent games, that seems to be the real cause,” sociology professor Whitney DeCamp of Western Michigan University told Digital Trends. DeCamp added that racism appeared to have been a major factor in at least one of the recent shootings. “If we are looking for something to change to try to prevent future tragedies,” DeCamp continued, “these seem like areas with far more potential for effective change.”
In past studies, researchers have found that individuals serving time for violent crimes are less likely to play video games than the average American. The number of Americans who play video games is astronomical, with about half of adults doing so, and several of the most popular titles feature gun violence. These same games are available in other countries, however, where extremely limited access to gun control remains the primary difference compared to the United States.
This was echoed by the Entertainment Software Association in a statement given to Digital Trends. “More than 165 million Americans enjoy video games, and billions of people play video games worldwide. Yet other societies, where video games are played as avidly, do not contend with the tragic levels of violence that occur in the U.S.,” the ESA said.
It’s unclear what, if any, action President Trump plans to take against violent video games. His statement didn’t hint at specifics.
Any move made to regulate violent games would likely need the support of Congress. Even then, laws or regulations that impact games would no doubt be challenged in court. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled a California law that blocked the sale of violent video games to children was unconstitutional. That sets a tough precedent for any future laws seeking to restrict the sale of video games.
In short, the President’s statement almost certainly won’t have an immediate impact on video games. Any laws made to regulate the sale of video games, or the content in them, would face multiple challenges. Placing blame on video games will no doubt make players and the video game industry uncomfortable, but it won’t bar you from buying games in the near future.
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