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Video games and shooting: Is the NRA right?

The NRA says the problem with mass shootings like the recent one at the Sandy Hook grade school in Connecticut is not too many unregulated guns but violent video games. But most academic and government research does not support the gun lobby's charge.

By Staff writer / December 23, 2012

This Activision publicity image shows soldiers and terrorists battling in the streets of Yemen in a scene from the video game, “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.”

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After a week of silence following the Sandy Hook school shooting that killed 20 first graders and six staff in Newtown, Conn., the National Rifle Association blamed the entertainment industry – specifically the producers of violent video games for inciting what has become a pattern of gun violence in the United States.

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In describing the industry, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, “There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.”

Mr. LaPierre faulted the news media for failing to report on “vicious, violent video games” such as “Grand Theft Auto,” “Mortal Kombat,” and “Splatterhouse” as egregious examples. He also singled out “Kindergarten Killer,” a free, fairly obscure online game.

“How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it?” he asked reporters.

Recommended: Second Amendment Quiz

Most academic research, as well as studies by the FBI and the US Secret Service, examining the link between violent video games and incident of violence does not support the gun lobby’s charge.

For example, a 2008 report by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital funded by the US Department of Justice found that violent video games may increase bullying or physical fighting in schools, but not mass gun violence.

“It's clear that the ‘big fears’ bandied about in the press – that violent video games make children significantly more violent in the real world; that they will engage in the illegal, immoral, sexist and violent acts they see in some of these games – are not supported by the current research, at least in such a simplistic form,” the report states.

Joan Saab, director of the visual and cultural studies program at the University of Rochester in New York, says the gaming industry should share in the blame for promoting military weaponry to young people, but adds that the popularity of such games reflect the “larger culture we live in, which is heavily militarized,” in the midst of lengthy combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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