Opinion: Newtown latest to be blamed on games
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 21:03
The search for meaning is a natural response to any tragedy, and the latest U.S. mass shooting is eliciting questions about, among other things, the potential role of violent video games. After all, with kids and teenagers spending so much time hammering away at simulated shooters, is it any wonder when they pick up actual guns?”
These are the words of Max Fisher of The Washington Post. In the wake of the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, two culprits have made their way into the national consciousness.
The first and most prominent has been America’s gun culture. The second is violent video games.
Precious little information is known about the shooter except that he was a troubled loner who enjoyed violent, gun-heavy videogames. As a result of this knowledge, and the very strong desire in the country to take action, there has been a tug-of-war over which of these issues should be the source of the U.S. national outrage. So far, gun regulation and control has been the front-runner. It has been the front-runner because it deserves to be.
The notion that violent video games that are made with adult content can lead a person to commit as evil an act as Columbine, Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook has some merit. It has very little merit, but I’ll admit to some. After all, there have been speculative claims that several murders were inspired by video games. However, the notion that our country of gun culture is less of an issue is preposterous.
To be clear, this column is for advocating neither to take guns away nor to restrict the Second Amendment or anything over-the-top and overbearing like that. This is a suggestion for the people in the most developed country with the highest gun-related deaths to perhaps rethink its obsession with being armed.
There is a difference between having a gun for protection and not being protected without having a gun. Many families keep a weapon in the home, locked away for safekeeping, to guard against invaders. It is the culture that tells citizens that they have to be armed in order to exist in this country safely that is suspect. There are hundreds of countries in this world where people don’t have this mentality, and they all have significantly fewer deaths due to gun incidents. Every time these issues are brought up to gun enthusiasts, they simply try and break down the numbers.
“Why yes, I need a 15-round clip in case my attacker is coming at me with a 30-round clip.”
Well, if neither party felt the need to be armed in the first place, then the problem is solved. It’s understandable if this sounds naive and counterintuitive to America’s gun culture, but the fact of the matter is this: unless Americans start making this mental shift slowly over time, they’ll never be truly safe. I’m aware that criminals don’t seem keen on laying down arms, but that’s when people’s faith in the justice system needs to take affect. The strongest gun enthusiasts out there should ask themselves if they would prefer a world where they “need” guns to feel safe. It’s doubtful that anyone’s answer will be “yes.”
Now back to the issue of video games. About 80,000 people are playing the newest installment of the popular war game, “Call of Duty: Black Ops II,” online at a given time. That is just one game on one system. Given the amount of people who play these games in the world, you’d think that for these claims directly linking violence in video games to actual violence to have any weight, they’d have substantial evidence to support it. However, in Fisher’s article, he discussed the fact that, with the exception of the United States, countries with high video game consumption are statistically some of the safest places to live in terms of gun violence.
To put more perspective on the numbers, in 2010 there were no proven reports of homicides that were directly inspired by video games, other than ones where they were mentioned as a property issue and not a behavioral one. That same year there were 606 accidental deaths from firearms in America. These are just the numbers from people who didn’t actively try and use guns for killing people but were just victims of having them around.
Who is to say if there is anything else responsible for the tragedy in Newtown? However, if something needs to come out of it, perhaps finally tackling America’s dependency on being armed isn’t the worst result.