US senator thinks video games are “a bigger problem” than guns

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The Sandy Hook shooting last month has sparked countless debates recently about the possibility that violent video games or violent media in general could be the cause of all these acts of violence. Senator Lamar Alexander, thinks it’s not only a possibility — he believes that video games are to blame:

I think video games is a bigger problem than guns, because video games affect people. But the First Amendment limits what we can do about video games and the Second Amendment to the Constitution limits what we can do about guns.

The first thing that jumps out to me here is this one little part: “because video games affect people.”  Really? It’s ridiculous how broad that statement is, and the amount of things you can put instead of video games is bordering on infinite. What about movies? TV shows? Books? Maybe you can even bring in food, cause you know, it affects people.

Speaking of TV shows, Ars Technica notes that if Alexander had said that TV is a bigger problem than guns, he probably would have been laughed out of the room. That’s because TV is an established part of the cultural landscape, and virtually everyone is familiar with it.

Maybe in a few years, as video games become as established as TV, and more and more politicians grow up with video games in society, they won’t be unfairly singled out like they are today. Or maybe pro-gun advocates want to blame everything except guns (for better or for worse). (Note: I don’t know if Senator Alexander is pro or anti guns, but is he Republican so probably pro guns.)

[via Ars Technica]

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17 comments

  1. Coyote

    @AFPhys: I think you may have been living in a bubble for the past 50 years.
    The time you speak of was when the most violent and gory of comic books were coming out. What they did then was a whole sale book burning, a wipe of the entire medium.
    How did that work out?
    Did we see any results what-so-ever?
    No.

    To say your offended and that others should be too is your right, to say your offended and others should be deprived of what you find offensive is wrong.

  2. AFPhys

    @Coyote: @Donna: @Ashraf:

    Sen.Alexander is certainly oversimplifying by specifying “video games”, but I understand this as needing to keep it down to a short sound bite. He would likely be easily willing to expand that into violent, graphic movies and TV if asked.

    Regardless, though, it is folly to refuse to recognize that immersion as a shooter in the very realistic virtual world of bloody killing WILL result in a “normalization” of that type of behavior in the mind of the participant. Again, it is folly to refuse to recognize that will make it more likely that person will be more prone to acting that out in the real world. This desensitization must be a major factor in analyzing “what is different” from past behavior.

    There is no getting around the truth that 50 years ago my friends and I were bringing our weapons to school and putting them in our own lockers so as to participate in shooting sports after school, and not one of us dreamed of shooting at another person. The guns have not changed; the people have; the environment have.

    That truth begs the question: What were the changes?

    It is clear that the graphic violence portrayed in “Halloween”, and such movies was not present ‘way back when, nor were the other media we’re speaking of here.

    It is possibly true that “no gun” zones have attracted those prone to lawlessness to those areas, believing they are relatively immune there, but that is a “sidetrack” issue to me.

    My dad was in the WW2 Navy, and refused to watch any movies of a violent nature, even walking out of movies such as “Rocky”. No, he was never in combat, he and his contempories simply believed that such portrayal of violence was unnecessary, contaminated his mind, and turned his stomach. How often do you see that type of reaction among people today? Among violent video game participants?

    Can you allow that it might be true that this desensitization is in fact a critical factor?

  3. Ron Helton

    We don’t have a mental health care system in this country. It is broken. The upcoming mandated health insurance is not going to fix the problem either.

    Does anybody think that any of these people who perpetrated these heinous crimes were sane? A sudden crime of passion, okay I could probably relate to that, committed in a fit of rage. But most of these shootings have been gunmen shooting random people. Or students who were bullied at school and ignored by their own parents and teachers that they were troubled.

    And look at who we have for examples for our kids and countrymen. Presidents who have waged war slaughtering and maiming hundreds of thousands of people who are thousands of miles from us.

    Neither the Iraq nor the Afghanistan wars were justified. After 9/11, we had the full support of the entire world until some want-a-be gunslinger declared unilateral war on those two countries.

    Violence is universal. It is not just limited to our country. War is a universal excuse to kill and maim in the name of patriotism.

    The reason for the 2nd Amendment as explained by the founding fathers in the Federalist Papers was to arm the citizens so they could prevent tyranny from the government.

    The current processes do not amend the Constitution, they circumvent it with laws that are codified into the United States Code. Which technically is unconstitutional because it changes our Bill of Rights without going through the amendment process as required by the Constitution.

    Same as with the drug laws which have contributed to the gun violence. None of the drug laws are constitutional because they circumvent every one of the ten Bill of Rights by bypassing the amendment process.

    But not one attorney would argue this before the Supreme Court because roughly 80 percent of cases are drug related.

    Declaring war on another country such as Iraq are in direct violation of the Constitution which only allows for providing for the common defense and not for offensive war campaigns.

    I read the entire 9/11 Commission Report and all of the mistakes reminded me of the old Keystone Cops short reels. FBI agents who warned of possible terrorist threats and were ignored. Custom officials who cleared Muhammad Atta, a known and wanted terrorist for previous attacks on Americans. Lack of information sharing between the NSA, CIA and FBI which had they been communicating would have sent red flags up all over the country.

    We have to decide whether we want actual freedom in this country or a nanny state that dictates our every move. I would rather return to the days of my youth when our government actually followed the Constitution. The main job of Congress is to deal with the budget. How they got off on the track of circumventing our Bill of Rights, just puzzles me silly.

  4. Seamus McSeamus

    @tejas:

    I had a similar upbringing. Grew up in the country, raised around guns and taught to respect them. I got my first gun at 13 — a 16 gauge shotgun that I still have. It wasn’t uncommon during deer season for half the pickups in the school parking lot to have a rifle or shotgun in the gun rack. Simpler times, my friend.

  5. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @tejas: To play devil’s advocate, if something has changed shouldn’t we change our social and legal laws to reflect that change? The problem in the USA is ‘right to bear arms is’ in our Bill of Rights. A large section of the American population oppose gun control simply on philosophical principles: it is our right to arm ourselves and taking that away infringes on our freedom, regardless of if we need or want guns. Many of us debate on the gun issue from emotion rather than logically.

    I’m not advocating gun control (nor am I advocating the lack thereof) but clearly something needs to be done. How about we (as in people in general) all stop bickering and behave like grown-ups to solve the issue to the best of our ability.

  6. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    I believe the whole violence issue is not as black and white as most people want to believe. There is no *one* thing that induces or causes violence. In my opinion, violence is a result of many different factors, and these factors vary from person to person. Factors such as external stimuli (e.g. video games, TV, media, etc.), influence of peers, friends, and family, access to weapons, mental health issues, etc. People who say “guns are not the problem” or “games are not the problem” or “XXX is not the problem” ignore reality that they all contribute, in one form or another.

    That said, what pisses me off the most is the pro-gun lobby. I understand and accept that it isn’t fair to say “guns cause all violence” because, as I just explained, violence is caused by a combination of factors. However, pro-gun lobby and advocates refuse to even acknowledge that the guns contributes to violence, at least to some degree (whatever degree that may be). There is a reason why, instead of telling everyone to arm themselves, that firearms and other weapons are forbidden in ‘sensitive’ places, such as in court, on airplanes, etc.

    I’m not pro or anti gun control (haven’t really made up my mind) but if everyone would be a bit more logical about the issue, I believe we could come up with a viable solution. Don’t just look at what benefits your wallet.

  7. jayesstee

    @Enrique:
    Sorry Enrique, but I think as a justification for video games, that interview bombs.
    The clever smokescreen of “comics” and “opera” (not the browser) is rubbish. Very few people ever spent the amount of time with comics (or operas) as is spent on the very addictive video games.
    It’s the relentless, hour after hour immersion in a fantasy world where violence is king that could numb some people in believing that if they have a mission, a wrong to right in the real world, then violence is necessary.
    Putting parental guidance labels on these videos is always going to be useless. Parents either don’t understand, care or are persuaded by their offspring’s claimed “peer pressure” to play these games.
    Remember, Adam Sessler is in the video game business and very successful. What else could he say?

  8. Donna

    The email recap did not say if he was Dem or Rep. I told my DH he must be Rep. Get here and read and yep. An older Rep. I agree that when the younger people finally get into politics there will be a lot of change. But we can make that change now. It means vote those idiots out. Get the new in. Rep and Dem!

  9. Coyote

    I think this senator and every other nutjob that thinks video games are the cause should read this.

    http://www.screwattack.com/video/Adam-Sessler-explains-violent-video-games-to-Fox-News–7567021

    Wehter the games effect people is not the problem. The parents that let their kids act out violently and play games that are obviously marked as not for kids. The parents are the sole people to blame. Teachers and church parishioners would be a close second.

  10. tejas

    Guns are not the problem. Where I grew up, everyone had guns. My dad had a rifle rack on the wall in our house. the rifles weren’t locked down, because they didn’t need to be. We knew guns weren’t toys. I had a 22 rifle when I was 14. My friend and I would go target shooting, and no one freaked out when they saw us walking down the road with our guns. It was common to see rifles in the back windows of pickups. It wasn’t a big deal. There was never any “gun violence”. Guns don’t make people stupid, or violent…………. so something has changed, and it’s not guns.

  11. Becky

    One of the adages of secular behavior counseling is something like: ones behavior proceeds in the direction of ones dominant thinking.

    An ancient tome says it this way: As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.

    We become that which we feed on…and yes, TV is a serious problem, particularly the network news.

  12. RealBull

    I believe that video games do affect people at different levels or ways. I remember when I was a kid, me and my friends would watch a kung-fu flick or pro wrestling and then go outside and pretend we were those characters on TV by “play fighting”. I think one of the bizarre things is COS-Play. People are so into their favorite characters that they must dress up as them is just more proof to me that people copy what they see. Go on YouTube and find hundreds of videos of idiots copying the movie Jack-ass…jumping off rooftops and other stupid stunts. So many of us do learn from what we see but it depends on the individual how far they take it.

  13. Starlight

    Most people have probably heard of the old adage “Imagine where you’d like to be in 10 years and hold that thought and it will happen for you, or at least something similar depending on how much time you give to the imagining” or even Postive Affirmations and Meditation etc etc.

    Well, just imagine, that whatever we feed into our minds does the same for us, and remember that is what people are doing when they study or follow a course of education, they’re trying to redirect their lives along a course or if you like a path or timeline of their own choosing.

    And doesn’t the kid who watches war movies and read about soldiering etc become a soldier; the girl who prays religiously and wants to help people and become closer to God become a Nun; the man who wants to make big bucks and retire early become an entrepreneur or a banker, etc etc.

    And yes I know these examples are pretty rough, but remember to become a Master Builder you learn first how to lay a single brick perfectly and then you learn how how to lay the second brick perfectly etc etc

    So take away all these good ideals of people and substitute the wrong ideals and repeat them endlessly like watching serial killers in a movie over and over or only that kind of genre or subject and where does that take the mind that is constantly using shooter games and kill, kill, kill videos etcetera and then you might, just might, have an idea as to where this Senator is coming from.

    Every learning and spiritual discipline in existence is based upon the repetition of certain ideas until they become entrenched in the mind and become the foundation upon which every subsequent action in a person’s life is first governed and qualified at a very subliminal level so that it builds only upon the foundation that has been laid and embedded as that person’s overriding control for their life.

    That means GIGO, Garbage In, Garbage Out in programming terms for our super bio computer minds or if you prefer PIPO, Positivity In, Positivity Out or the opposite if that is what you truly want? Is it?

    So just imagine, and imagine it is true, then imagine the best that can happen no matter what and just keep on imagining the best that can happen and see where that takes you and your life…..!

    Would you continue watching all the horror and killing and gratuitous violence in movies or read it in books etc?

    Your Life, Your Choice – so now that you know, what will you now choose for yourselves and for your children from this day forward?