As you might have expected, it did not take long for law makers to blame the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut last Friday on violent video games.
No sooner had they buried some of the victims than reports started to come out that Adam Lanza may have played video games like Call of Duty and Starcraft.
It was a fairly good bet. He was a kid, and he owned a computer, so it was likely that he played computer games at some point in his life.
Now reports are coming in that Senator Jay Rockefeller has introduced one of Congress’ first pieces of legislation related to the tragedy in Newtown, which is a bill to study the impact of violent video games on children. Not guns.
Rockefeller, who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said that since last week, everyone was focused on protecting children and the US needed to take a comprehensive look at all the ways it could keep kids safe.
He said that he has long expressed concern about the impact of the violent content kids see and interact with every day and now it is time to have the National Academy of Sciences to lead the investigation on video games’ impact, and submit a report on its findings within 18 months.
Other Democrat senators such as Richard Blumenthal and Joe Lieberman have also called for scrutinising the content of video games.
Rockefeller said that people believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons.
However, he claims, citing no evidence, that parents, pediatricians, and psychologists knew better.
Of course Rockefeller’s gut feeling that computer games were responsible for Sandy Hook has to compete with solid statistics from the FBI which show that youth violence has declined in recent years as computer and video game popularity soared.
Analysis of the 10 largest video game markets in the world has found no statistical correlation between video game consumption and gun-related killings.
Dusting off old chestnuts is something that Congress does after tragedies like this. In the 1930s it was dance halls, 1950s they were insisting that “crime and horror” comic books were impacting juvenile delinquency. In the 1960s it was rock and roll, in the 1970s it was violence on TV, and in the 1990s it was computer games.
It is far easier to find whatever teens are doing as a convenient scapegoat than to admit that your country is a shallow, violent place, where people with mental illness have easy access to firearms.
Ironically, Rockefeller’s bill comes before any legislation in the Senate to look at the role guns play in violent incidents. Dealing with imaginary guns is a lot less scary than taking on the NRA and the gun lobby.