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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.

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Ms. Saab says that the NRA’s call for armed guards in schools would make that kind of military culture more pervasive for children.

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“If there are more armed guards in schools, kids are exposed to more guns. That’s when fantasy and reality aren’t blurred. When there are guns in schools, it becomes real life and the day-to-day environment becomes more dangerous than the game,” she says. In Newtown, as in Aurora, Colo. and the sites of other mass shootings, the gunman was outfitted in military-style dress.

By blaming video games for gun violence, the NRA also puts itself in a vulnerable position because, as Mother Jones reports, the company partnered with gaming producer Cave Entertainment in 2006 for “NRA Gun Club,” a PlayStation 2 game that allows users to fire over 100 different brand-name handguns.

LaPierre did not specify if Congress should move forward in regulating the gaming industry, perhaps because previous attempts were not successful.

A US Supreme Court ruling in 2011 struck down a California law that made it a crime to sell or rent what it classified as violent video games to minors. The ruling said the law, signed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) in 2005, violates First Amendment protections.

In the wake of Sandy Hook, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller introduced a bill that calls for the National Academy of Sciences to examine the possible links between violent video games and violent incidents caused by children.

Overall, gun-based video games do not wholly represent total gaming industry sales, according to data from VGChartz, a UK-based research firm that tracks gaming sales. In 2011, for example, just seven of the top 20 best-selling games in the US involve warfare simulation. The other titles – “Just Dance 3,” “Kinect Adventures!” “New Super Mario Bros. Wii,” “Madden NFL 12,” and “Pokemon Black/White” – are designed around sports, dance, and children’s cartoon characters.

All of the games LaPierre mentions are more than 15 years old, with some dating back to the 1980s, with their popularity waning. For example, total unit sales in the US for the “Mortal Kombat” franchise dropped 70 percent in 2012, compared to the previous year total. The game debuted in 1992.

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