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Video games, violence and mass shootings have a long, complicated history

Video games have often been blamed for acts of violence, but the correlation is tenuous.

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In the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, video games are yet again being blamed for violence in America.
Photo by Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images

Video games again have been invoked as one of the causes of violence in the U.S. in the wake of mass shootings this weekend in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

President Donald Trump, who last year held a video game summit after the February 2018 Parkland, Florida, shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was among several public officials who called out video games as a potential factor in shootings, mentioning video games and violence.

President Donald Trump on Monday condemned white nationalism and said he supported “red flag” laws, which could limit a person’s access to firearms if the person is determined to be a potential threat to the public.

He also decried, “the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

That came a day after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said video games would likely contribute to future mass shootings during an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” When asked about how to understand factors contributing to a shooting, McCarthy said video games can “dehumanize individuals.”

Earlier Sunday on “Fox & Friends,” Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick noted that the person charted in the El Paso shooting mentioned the popular shooting game “Call of Duty” in a manifesto. “We’ve always had guns. We’ve always had evil. But what’s changed where we see this rash of shooting?” he said. “I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill.”

Similarly, Ohio State Rep. Candice Keller also included video games, along with “drag queen advocates,” “homosexual marriage,” open borders, and former President Barack Obama, as factors in the shootings. The Republican, who lives in Middletown about 30 miles south of Dayton, also blamed the Democrats in Congress and other lawmakers who don’t value the Second Amendment.

But studies into video games and violence are not so clear-cut.

While some research suggests a link between games and physical aggression, a more recent U.K. study found no link between playing violent games and aggressive behavior. A note: Aggression did not equate to taking up arms and harming or killing individuals.

Concern about video game violence rose after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting after it was learned the teen shooters played the first-person shooting computer game “Doom.”

But the Supreme Court surveyed research in a 2011 decision overturning California’s ban on the sale of violent video games to minors, with the late Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed a link between the games and aggression in the majority opinion. “These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively,” he wrote.

A year later, the issue arose again after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 20 children and six educators were slain.

As recently as 2018, in the wake of the mass shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, at a video game tournament, the BBC published an article that explores the “Florida video game gunman’s dark obsession with (gaming).”

Several politicians took to Twitter to dispel the video game-violence conceit.

Among them was former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who noted that “People suffer from mental illness in every other country on earth; people play video games in virtually every other country on earth. The difference is the guns.”

“Video games aren’t causing mass shootings, white supremacy is,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Sunday.

“Sadly the GOP refuse to acknowledge that, (because) their strategy relies on rallying a white supremacist base,” she wrote. “That‘s why the President hosts stadiums of people chanting ‘send her back’ & targets Congress-members of color.”

Read more at usatoday.com