Donald Trump and members of the Republican party have once again linked video games with gun violence, following two more mass shootings in the United States this weekend.
22 people were killed and 24 injured when a lone gunman opened fire in a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday. A separate mass shooting incident occurred hours later on Sunday morning, this time in Dayton, Ohio, resulting in the deaths of 9 people, with 27 more injured.
Following the attacks, members of the Republican Party, and President Trump himself, came forward to single out video games as an influencing factor in the shootings.
“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” said Trump in a broadcast on Monday, “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately.”
This isn’t the first time that Trump has brought video games, along with other violent media and the internet at large, into the debate following a mass shooting. Last February, in response to the devastating school shootings in Parkland, Florida, the president told attendees at a White House school safety meeting that, “I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
Trump later held a meeting with video game executives, parent groups, and members of Congress to “discuss violent video game exposure and the correlation to aggression and desensitisation in children”. And while it resulted in little tangible action, it evidently failed to quell the video games rhetoric coming from Trump and the wider Republican party.
Following this weekend’s attacks, Republican Party House minority leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News that “when you look at these photos of how [the shootings] took place, you can see the actions within video games.” He suggested games “dehumanise individuals”, before claiming “We’ve watched from studies shown before what [they do] to individuals”.
Earlier in the day, Republican Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick also explicitly called out the video game industry. He too made reference to “studies that say [gaming] impacts people”. And while Patrick also acknowledged the existence of studies that demonstrated no correlation between video games and violence, he continued, “I look at the common denominators, as a 60-something father and grandfather myself, what’s changed in this country?
“We’ve always had guns, we’ve always had evil, but what’s changed when we see this rash of shooting? And I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill.”
In response, the International Game Developers Association and the IGDF have issued a joint statement reiterating the lack of evidence linking gaming and violence.
“Our deepest condolences and hearts go out to the victims and families affected by the tragic events in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas,” reads the statement, “Society has endured too many senseless acts of violence and horrific mass shootings. Blaming video games distracts from the broader issues at hand. There is an overwhelming amount of research that finds there is no evidence linking video games to violence. Video games do not cause violence, and we support efforts to discontinue this misguided information.”
The Entertainment Software Association, which represents the games industry in the US, has yet to respond to the recent round of finger pointing. It has, however, published a number of statements highlighting scientific research that refutes any links between gun violence and video games in recent times.
In March, Stanley Pierre-Louis, chief executive officer at the ESA wrote, “You don’t have to delve deeply into this issue to grasp the essential facts. The same video games played in the US are played all over the world by 2.6 billion people, but the US stands alone in incidents of mass violence. Time and time again, the research confirms that there is no evidence linking video game play to violent behaviour.”
Despite the ESA’s assertions, it’s clear that video games and other media are once again being forced centre stage in the gun violence blame game, and that the discussion is far from over.