Trump blames videogames for increasing gun violence, research says otherwise

Trump is far from the first political leader to blame video games for increased violence among the youth. The 1990s saw many politicians scrutinizing video games for their 'violent content'. [Source: Flickr Creative Commons.]
Donald Trump starred in this widely panned video game released in 2002. His White House comments on Thursday did not reference its potential influence on America’s youth. [Source: arstechnica]

Rochana Mohan

New York Times, Feb 27: President Trump said Thursday that violent video games and movies may play a role in school shootings, a claim that has been made — and rejected — many times since the increase in such attacks in the past two decades.

Movies are “so violent,” Mr. Trump said at a meeting on school safety one day after he gathered with survivors of school shootings, including some from last week’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where, the authorities say, a former student, Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people with a semiautomatic rifle.

“We have to look at the internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds and their minds are being formed,” Mr. Trump said, “and we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”

“And then you go the further step and that’s the movies,” he added. “You see these movies, they’re so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved.”

A neighbor of Mr. Cruz’s told The Miami Herald that he played video games, often violent ones, for up to 15 hours a day.

Media scholars say the claim — a common one in the wake of mass shootings — does not hold up to scrutiny.

The argument became a common refrain after Columbine.

Mr. Trump is far from the first leader to argue that violence in video games or movies can lead to violence in the real world.

A similar claim was made in the 1940s, when Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York argued that pinball — which was illegal in the city for over 30 years — was “dominated by interests heavily tainted with criminality.”

The argument that video games and other forms of violent media could be to blame for mass shootings became common after the Columbine massacre in 1999, when two students shot and killed 13 people at Columbine High School outside Denver.

Bill Clinton, then the president, ordered an investigation into advertising practices used to sell violent entertainment.

More recently, the position that video games may play a role in violent behavior is more often cited by conservatives. In 2007, one month after an armed student killed 32 people at Virginia Tech, Mitt Romney said that “pornography and violence” in music, movies, TV and video games were to blame for the carnage both there and at Columbine.

[WARNING: FOUL LANGUAGE] Games journalist Jim Sterling explains how videogames have been used as a scapegoat for several years.