Because this administration is incapable of having good ideas, President Trump will meet with representatives from the video game industry on Thursday to discuss possible connections between violent video games and gun violence. Problem is, decades of research have found no such connection. Whoops.
During a February meeting on school safety after the Parkland shooting, Trump mused, “I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
Now he’ll have his chance to let representatives from Entertainment Software Association, a video game lobby, try to tell him he’s wrong. The ESA released a statement previewing its argument for the upcoming meeting:
Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the U.S. has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation. The upcoming meeting at the White House, which ESA will attend, will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices.
If Trump’s ruminations sound familiar, it’s because it’s the same tired deflection that politicians and concerned parents have turned to since the ‘90s. It’s Columbine, the redux, and all we need to top it off are a pair of low-rise bootcut jeans and the vilification of Marilyn Manson.
Despite the longevity of the argument, the evidence does not support the claim, experts say. The research of Dr. Whitney DeCamp, director of the Kercher Center for Social Research at Western Michigan University, is just one example. That study concludes that there isn’t a significant link between violent video games and violent behavior; instead, a violent environment (home life, for example) has a larger impact on one’s propensity to violence. Researchers at the University of York have also found no evidence that violent video games make players more violent.
And let’s not forget a fact you don’t need a degree to understand: While video game play has exploded over the past 30 years, violent crime has reduced significantly. And while violent video games are played all over the world, the problem of gun violence at this scale is unique to the United States.
One example, from The New York Times:
In Japan, about 60 percent of the population played video games in 2016, according to NewZoo, a gaming market research company. But almost no one is killed by a gun in the country, which bans possessing, carrying, selling, or buying handguns or rifles. There were only six gun deaths in Japan in 2014, compared with over 33,000 in the United States, according to GunPolicy.org, which tracks published reports on armed violence, firearm law and gun control.
This Trump meeting seems like a convenient way to skirt around the fact that America has a gun violence problem because America has a gun problem. Even if violent video games did make people violent, the solution would be the same: limit easy access to firearms.