Forget guns, video games are to blame for school shootings, claims deluded US governor
As the US grapples with gun control in the wake of yet another school shooting that saw 17 people die, the governor of Kentucky has dismissed the issue altogether. Instead, he places the blame directly in the hands of pro-gun’s favourite scapegoat: violent video games.
Speaking in an interview with Leland Conway on WHAS on Thursday, Republican governor Matt Bevin blamed “a culture of death that is being celebrated” through violent video games, music and TV shows.
“There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there’s nothing to prevent the child from playing them,” Bevin said.
“They celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are video games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off, who’s lying there begging for their life.”
Despite being incredibly crass and insensitive just a day after young students and teachers lost their lives, his words are mightily ironic. While it’s true there’s nothing to prevent kids from playing video games, there’s similarly very little preventing people from purchasing firearms in the US, as well.
In federal law, people aged 18 and older are legally allowed to buy long guns – as long as they don’t have a criminal record. As the killer has never had a criminal record, he was automatically cleared to purchase the gun.
According to Ars Technica, Bevin recalled how children used to regularly bring guns to school after Christmas, but changes to society and the culture around video games are leading to these atrocities.
“I think we need to start by having an honest question about what value any of these things add,” he said. “Do we need a video game, for example, that encourages people to kill people. Whether it’s lyrics, whether it’s shows, whether it’s movies, I’m asking the producers of these products, these video games, and these movies, ask yourselves what redemptive value, other than shock value, other than the hope you’ll make a couple of bucks off it. At what price? At what price?”
While Bevin breezed past talking about gun control, the links between video games and violence are heavily debated. Early studies from the 2000s looking into the link between video games and aggression have been notoriously lambasted by many scholars. When you consider the US Supreme Court itself ruled there’s no link between video games and violence,plus growing evidence that suggests the same, you realise arguments like this deal with pro-gun rhetoric.
In a study conducted by the University of York last month, researchers undertook the largest ever study into video games and violence. Conducting a series of experiments with more than 3,000 participants, the researchers investigated whether video games primed players to think aggressively. In that instance, they found no link between video game realism and real-life violence.
Criminologists even described the video games and violence link as a misconception and not valid in a separate paper published in 2013. While another study by researchers in Germany even found that long-term fans of violent games are just as empathetic as non-gamers and are not desensitised to violence. There are even more studies backing up this claim.
Every time a tragic school shooting like this happens, video games are brought up in interviews and conversations. The thing is, the argument is losing its credibility as it crumbles under a growing mountain of research denying the link is there.