Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) says that exposure to violent media such as video games can put those with mental illnesses "over the edge" and that he supports President Obama's plan for more research into violent games. The research – which includes (for the first time) the study of the (possible) connection between guns and mass shootings – was recommended by the Administration in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown Conn. in December of last year which resulted in the deaths of 20 children and six adults. In January of this year the President proposed spending $10 million in research to be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health.
Senator Murphy's comments came out of a recent Google Hangout in response to a question posed by GameSpot who asked "why he chose to single out video games during a speech in January and what message he has for the video game industry at large."
"Obviously, this is a very sensitive issue in Connecticut. Newtown is still in crisis," Murphy said in response. "Not enough healing going on there in the wake of the murder of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And you know, what we know are the facts about that crime. What we know is that this young man, deeply mentally ill walking the school with an assault weapon armed with 30-round magazines. What we know is that he was very, very severely mentally ill; that his mother had been trying to get him help for years. And what we also know, is that he spent a lot of time playing violent video games."
Murphy went on to say that the Sandy Hook shooter's violent outburst cannot be pinned on any one element, but claimed that a trend does exist that shows past mass shooters had "exposure to these video games."
"Now, nobody can sit here for certain and say that without any one of those things, without the powerful weapons, without the mental illness, without the exposure to video games, this wouldn't have happened. We can't put ourselves in his mind," Murphy said. "But we do see a trend where some of these shooters do have exposure to these video games."
Murphy also acknowledged that there is no scientific data to back up much of what he and others have put forward on the connection between playing violent video games and violent mass shootings.
"What we admittedly don't have…is any peer-reviewed studies or research that tell us that there is a definitive link between exposure to violent video games and violence," Murphy said. "What researchers will tell you, is that if you already have a severe mental illness, and a predilection to violence, perhaps the video game exposure can put you over the edge. But in and of itself, there is no research showing that there's a link."
"It's one of the reasons why I've supported president Obama and vice president Biden in their efforts to have the CDC and the NIH do more research on the root causes of gun violence; one of the things they are going to do research on now is that link between exposure to violent video games and to violent episodes because I admit that we don't have the research there to back up what we see anecdotally in the case of Adam Lanza, for instance," he added.
Finally Murphy said that no legislation would be passed before having some valid research on the subject.