Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Calls for More Research on Violent Video Games

Yesterday Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) released "A Comprehensive Plan That Reduces Gun Violence and Respects the 2nd Amendment Rights of Law-Abiding Americans," which details the recommendations of the " Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force." While there are plenty of recommendations on guns and curbing gun violence, mental health issues and school safety, there is a portion of the report dedicated to violent media.

The report attempts to offer solutions for our culture's glorification of violence and calls for providing parents with more information:

Address our culture’s glorification of violence seen and heard though our movie screens, television shows, music and video games: Congress should fund scientific research on the relationship between popular culture and gun violence, while ensuring that parents have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about what their families watch, listen to, and play.

While the task force admits that the current research does not support a link between violent media and violent behavior, it advocates for further scientific research, anyway:

Many Americans are concerned that television programs, movies, video games and other forms of media are starting to desensitize young Americans to violence, specifically gun violence, at a very early age. While we have a shared responsibility in this area, it is essential that parents, educators, and our communities at large are aware of and use the tools available to them and that those tools are sufficient to help make informed decisions about the content exposed to our children. While recent scientific research has not demonstrated a causal relationship between modes of entertainment and violence, more research should be done, including with the backing of uninterested government scientists and experts. We support making available more information about content choices to our parents and communities, and urge that further scientific research be conducted on possible relationships between the depiction of violence in entertainment media and gun violence in our communities.

The report then goes on to call for the CDC and other "impartial research entities" to add to the existing research on the relationship between video games, the media, and gun violence. Of course this call for more studies ignores all of the studies that have taken place already. The most damning studies on video game violence, for example, only go so far as to say that violent video games make players more aggressive. A new study from Ohio State says that prolonged use of violent video games makes players aggressive too, but they do not say that it can lead to real world violence. Of course driving on a busy freeway, playing a competitive sport, and other activities in everyday life can make people aggressive too.

The report adds that the "entertainment and video game industries have a responsibility to give parents the tools to make appropriate choices about what their children watch and play. It is clear to us that these industries take this responsibility seriously. However, as new technologies emerge and new entertainment platforms are developed, Congress must continue to work with these industries to ensure that their efforts remain successful."

Of course there are plenty of tools for parents already built into most consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii, for example) – parents have to choose to use them. The ESRB already does a decent job of providing parents with the information on what a particular game might contain – right on the game's packaging. Naturally more can always be done to offer better information and information services, but it is disingenuous for lawmakers to say that we need more tools from the industry when parents don't use the tools they already have.

Source: Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

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