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School shooters are not created through violent video games

Politicians should find actual facts to promote policy instead of perpetuating myths

Jordan Robinson, JagWire reporter/photographer

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Two days after a former student walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and brutally murdered 17 students and teachers, Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Florida said on NPR, when asked how to better prevent school violence, that “the biggest pusher of violence is, hands down, Hollywood movies, hands down, the video game market.”

This argument, however, which was also cited by Kentucky gov. Matt Bevin, is a convenient and unscientific manipulation of a common misconception that is used in place of actual policy.

Though there have been studies that have found a positive correlation between violent media consumption and aggressive thoughts, they have been extremely short term; assessing for increased aggressive thoughts just minutes after playing violent video games or consuming violent movies. Additionally, these studies found an increase only in aggressive thoughts, not behaviors, despite what the statements of certain uninformed politicians may imply.

The reasons for aggressive behaviors—especially behaviors as violent as committing mass murder—are extremely nuanced, and cannot be made clear by one single oversimplified and overstated explanation. It is extremely irresponsible for politicians to draw the line of blame directly to one single source, such as violent media, instead of evaluating the causes of violence on a holistic level.

It is extremely irresponsible for politicians to draw the line of blame directly to one single source.”

In fact, according to a report published in the Review of General Psychology, children who displayed aggressive traits such as “high neuroticism, low agreeableness and low conscientiousness” before playing a violent game were most likely to display aggressive traits after, suggesting that the video game was not the primary cause of the aggression.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Peter Langdon, a psychologist and expert in the psychology of school shooters, perpetrators typically fall under one of three psychological categories: a psychopathic shooter, who lacks conscience and empathy; a psychotic shooter, who is not fully grounded in reality and may have schizophrenia or a schizotypal personality disorder; or a traumatized shooter, who has had a difficult background and has “experienced multiple types of abuse, chronic stress and trauma”.  Dr. Langdon has never evaluated a shooter who’s crime is directly attributable to excessive violent video game consumption.

Wherever you may stand on the debate over gun control, the proliferation of misinformation is dangerous. Though the search for meaning is a natural response to any tragedy, blaming violent media for a school shooting is a misplaced and flawed argument that politicians use to deflect the tough questions raised by the debate over gun control.  Ultimately, there is no simple cause for mass shootings and by extension, there is no simple solution to combating them.

However, the first step towards safer schools and a safer society is limiting the amount of misinformation congesting the discussion around how to move forward. It is the responsibility of our elected leaders to find solutions to difficult problems, not promote non-polarizing misconceptions in order to avoid taking a side. In turn, it is our responsibility, as citizens, to carefully choose our leaders and hold them accountable for finding policies beneficial to society, no matter the political backlash that may fall on them.

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