A look at GTA, the NRA, and Canada, eh?
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 22:10
Back when the tragedy at Sandy Hook was making headlines, I wrote an article about how video games were not to blame for the incident as some pundits were arguing. Now, in the wake of the Navy yard shooting by Aaron Alexis who reportedly played a lot of Call of Duty and the release of the very violent Grand Theft Auto V, the topic of violence in video games has reared its ugly head again along with arguments that come with it.
Rockstar launched GTA V, their game on Sept. 17 to the tune of $800 million in sales within 24 hours. In comparison, that is more than the daily GDP of the country of Singapore. The game has already broken records among entertainment media and become immensely popular, but it has been brought under scrutiny with cases like Zachary Burgess. The freshman lacrosse player at Auburn University hijacked a car, held its passenger captive and plowed into at least nine vehicles in order to see what it was like to be a character from the game. While GTA is more violent than your average game, there are multiple pundits that think that the virtual actions correlated to real world actions. In general, research has shown that violent video games, at best, have no effect and at worst, increase aggression, but not to a point that is significant enough to turn people into mass murdering sociopaths.
If video games were linked to gun violence then this problem should be everywhere considering video games are played worldwide. However, this is not the case according to data collected by the Washington Post. Take Canada as an example. Our northern neighbors actually spend more on video games per capita than the United States, yet have substantially lower gun related homicides. In the United States, 2.9 homicides are committed with a firearm per 100,000 people, which accounts for 60 percent of all homicides (4.8 per 100,000 people). In Canada, there are only 0.51 gun related homicides per 100,000 people, accounting for only 30 percent of total homicides (1.6 per 100,000 people). And it’s not as if there aren’t guns in Canada. Canadians own guns at a rate of 30.8 per hundred people — 13th highest in the world — but they are only 56th in terms of killing each other with these guns. This trend continues with other countries too. Germany, France, Britain, and Japan all spend more on video games per capita than the United States, yet have nowhere near the same amount of gun violence.
Despite this data and observing the vast number of American violent video game players who don’t commit murder, the NRA and those against gun control continue to attribute the gun violence problem to games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. There are even advocates of regulating games, such as Fox & Friends host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who said, “I’m not one to get in there and say, monitor everything, but if this indeed, is a strong link, right, to mass killings then why aren’t we looking at frequency of purchases per person?”
Though Hasselbeck’s ideas are probably among the minority, it is the epitome of hypocrisy that the same people who argue that gun regulation will be ineffective are the same ones advocating for stricter limits on video games. And the same people who insist the majority of gun owners are responsible citizens refuse to make the same acknowledgement towards gamers.
I don’t think stricter gun control is a panacea for gun violence in this country. Gun culture is too complex for that; illegal gun trafficking and mental health also that need to be addressed. However, I find it absurd to believe that video games are the roots of these problems. Other entertainment media have been targeted for inciting violence or bad behavior in the past, such as music and movies. Video games are just the new scapegoats because it is much easier for politicians to blame Call of Duty than to actually take up the call of duty and address the real problems we face regarding gun violence.