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116 MIN READ TIME

Guns and Games

BY JOHN GLYNN

JIM MORRISON, THE DOOR’S INIMITABLE FRONTMAN, struck a chord when he said, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” Media violence has to be one of the most commonly repeated, and most misinterpreted, terms of our time. A needless flurry of fear stems from the sensational and inciting ways in which the media feed misinformation to the public. When an explicitly violent act occurs, we tend to experience what psychologists call confirmation bias, a string of cognitive preconceptions that involve an individual’s desire to relate the incident to previously held beliefs.

For example, on June 10, 2014, armed with an AR-15 assault-style rifle, Jared Padgett, a 15-year-old freshman student, entered Reynolds High School and shot a 14-year old classmate and then himself with the same weapon. Inquiries into Padgett’s background uncovered the fact that he liked first-person shooter games, which naturally led some pundits to focus on violent video games as a cause of school shootings, leaving people to wonder if this pastime encourages young people to engage in real world violence. The idea that video games cause violent behavior is especially applied to titles that are violent in nature—for example, the Halo series, the Grand Theft Auto titles, and especially first-person shooter video games.

Parents, of course, should supervise their children’s behaviors and pastimes, but the aim of this paper is to highlight the benefits of video games, including violent video games, and then suggest that the real cause of school shootings is America’s obsessive gun culture. Of the tens of millions of people who play video games, scientific research shows that very few commit acts of violence, certainly not enough to say that, statistically speaking, video games play any significant role in real-world violent behavior.

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