Gamers play video games during the Gamescom 2014 fair in Cologne on Aug. 13, 2014.
Photo by Ina Fassbender/Reuters

The laziest refrain: GOP blames mass shootings on video games

Updated

After one of last year’s mass shootings, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) presented one of his ideas intended to save lives: if schools had fewer doors, the Republican said, there might be fewer school shootings.

Yesterday, Patrick brought this level of wisdom to Fox News, where he responded to the latest mass shootings by pointing at a less architectural culprit for the latest mass shootings.

“I say, how long are we going to let, for example, and ignore at the federal level particularly, where they can do something about the video-game industry? … I see a video-game industry that teaches young people to kill.”

This followed a different Fox News interview in which House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pointed in the same direction.

“The idea that these video games that dehumanize individuals to have a game of shooting individuals,” continued McCarthy, “I’ve always felt that it’s a problem for future generations and others. We’ve watched studies show what it does to individuals, and you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”

NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin noted that the House’s top GOP lawmaker inadvertently raised a subject worth considering in more detail: “What things ‘dehumanize’ people? What language ‘dehumanizes’ groups of people? Referring to them as animals? Likening them to infestations? Saying people are invaders, secret radicals, or part of a global conspiracy to hurt you?”

There’s also, of course, the laziness surrounding Republicans’ reflexive efforts to shift the post-massacre conversations away from guns and toward gun violence.

If this line of argument sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for that. As regular readers may recall, a couple of months after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) argued on MSNBC, “I think video games is [sic] a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people.”

That was certainly an odd thing to hear on national television, but it was part of a larger pattern: for much of the right, it’s better to focus on pixelated guns than actual guns.

Last year, in the immediate aftermath of the massacre in Parkland, Fla., Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) declared, “We need to have an honest conversation as to what should and should not be allowed in the United States as it relates to the things being put in the hands of our young people.’

He wasn’t referring to guns; he was talking about video games.

Donald Trump chimed in soon after, complaining about the “level of violence on video games,” which he said “is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”

The trouble, of course, is that reality keeps discrediting the argument. For one thing, there’s been considerable research in this area, and the studies simply don’t support Republicans’ conclusions.

For another, video gaming is a huge cultural phenomenon in other countries, with young people playing many of the same titles, but we don’t see comparable gun violence in those countries.

As part of his tirade yesterday, Texas’ Dan Patrick said, in reference to mass shootings, “I look at the common denominators.” So do I, and it seems to me that the common denominator in each of these slayings is access to deadly firearms.

The United States isn’t the only country with young people playing video games, but we are the only modern Western democracy on the planet that makes tools of mass violence readily available to its citizens.

Gun Violence and Video Games

The laziest refrain: GOP blames mass shootings on video games

Updated