In the aftermath of the Sept. 16 spree shooting at Washington’s Navy Yard, there is a movement among Capitol Hill Republicans to attack video games—as a surrogate for gun owners and the gun industry.
To the staffers pushing this plan, the thinking goes that it is better to beat up on the video game industry with its awkward reputation among do-gooders and the mainstream media than to risk the ire of supporters of gun rights.
This mindset fits nicely with the narrative emerging that the Navy Yard shooter, like the Newtown shooter, was an otherwise rationale man, whose mind was desensitized to violence by the relentless images, sound and fury of firing a video gun at video victims.
This narrative has been the theme of numerous congressional hearings, held by both Republicans and Democrats, designed to create a political environment where video games are stripped of First Amendment rights and placed under the regulatory regime of the federal government.
Perhaps there is no better example of this than the March 19 hearing held by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R.-Va.), where he gave center stage to Ohio State University Prof. Brad J. Bushman.
Bushman, who in his 2006 study “When God Sanctions Killing: Effect of scriptural violence on aggression” linked reading Bible verses with subsequent violence behavior, told Chairman Wolf and the rest of the House Commerce, Justice and Related Agencies sub-committee that video games cause young minds to become violent minds and should be restricted by the government, both content and users.
Whoa. Hold on.
Maybe Congress should step back from a narrative that says that videos cause violence—just like the Bible—and should be regulated—just like the Bible?
OK, maybe Wolf is just another hack trying to make political hay while the gun-panic sun is shining. But, there is a danger just the same.
Whenever we accept that individuals are not responsible for their actions, we trade away another piece of our freedom.
Freedom means we do not pre-punish crimes that might be committed. However, when there is a criminal act, the criminal suffers the consequences.
Blaming video games is convenient and compelling, but if we really start pardoning spree shooters for their crimes and blame role-playing shooter or combat video games it will be a serious modification of the contract between free people and their government.
Do not misunderstand me. It is natural and good that after a shooting massacre people look for ways to prevent them.
In the week after the Dec. 14 spree shooting in Newtown, Conn., I was approached by a leading Washington Republican, who told me that he had met with a prominent GOP senator the night before and based on that conversation, he asked me what could be done to appear to care about gun violence.
“Nothing,” I said.
He paused to figure out if I had really told him that conservatives should do nothing. He then gathered himself and told me that however meaningless the action was, it was important to do something.
I said again that the liberals did not have the juice to restrict gun rights on their own and Republicans and conservatives should do nothing to help them.
He was troubled and almost angry.
Guns make people safer and give victims a fighting chance when a madman goes beserk, I said.
In the end, the Republicans came very close to helping the Democrats achieve the biggest wipeout of gun rights since the Gun Control Act of 1968.
If may seem to Capitol Hill Republicans that going after video games is a free play that show them “doing something.” But, let’s hope they back off and change their minds.
One of the most powerful slogans in politics is: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s logic is so powerful that in an argument with a gun-grabber, one need only utter the first two words before the gun-grabber finishes the slogan for you in a rage.
Blaming video games is the same as blaming guns for the actions of individuals, and after the support gun owners have given the Republicans over the last four decades, they would be wise to hold their fire.