Gun Violence Research Requires Parity to Avoid Hypocrisy
In the wake of the tragic shootings in Newtown, it seems there’s one thing almost everyone in Washington can agree on: We need more research into the effects of violent video games. National Rifle Association representative Wayne LaPierre targeted games in his bizarre post-Newtown rant, and President Obama and Vice President Biden have both called for an expansion of research into gaming’s effects.
Video games have traveled this road before, and the objections from those of us who enjoy games are inevitably the same: The research is flawed, either in its methodology, its conclusions or its funding (sometimes all three). The one thought process I’ve seen so frequently on Reddit, Kotaku and other hangouts for game enthusiasts is best summarized as: “I’ve played video games all my life, and I’ve never killed anyone. Why can’t anyone figure that out?”
At the same time as these discussions about greater research into the effects of video game violence, there has also been a call for greater research into gun violence—funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—which the Republican Party has successfully blocked for the past 12 years.
To me, that seems absurd. The CDC is able to do research into other significant causes of death like car accidents (which the NRA is perfectly happy to cite in their discussions of gun violence); why are guns off the table? I would assume Senator Lamar Alexander, who said in a television interview: “I think video games is a bigger problem than guns,” would have no problem with expanded research into video game violence.
So why not examine our problem of gun violence from both ends? I fundamentally fail to see how greater research into gun violence won’t help us as a nation figure out what to do about reducing the number of people who get shot every year.
At the same time, I think it’s important to understand why someone would support a continued ban on government-sponsored research into gun violence. I figured that any opponents of said research would argue that it was opportunistic, political and driven by a wish to restrict gun ownership. Given the rhetoric surrounding the original ban, that assumption would seem to make sense.
Upon considering that, I thought about my own objections to greater research into the effects of violent video games. My reasons for opposing broader research in both cases was exactly the same. That understanding brought me to an impasse: I either have to find a reason why video games are different than guns, or I have to oppose research into gun violence if I oppose research into video game violence.
The latter was not an option I particularly liked. I think that scientific inquiry gives humans the best chance to understand things around us. But if I can’t trust the scientific method with regards to one of my favorite hobbies, why should the NRA put any more trust in it?
Personally, I’ll continue to err on the side of greater research. But, in the event that there are legislators who cry foul about greater research into guns, I hope they’ll bring that same zeal to opposing research into video games, if only to avoid being hypocrites.
Filed under: Opinion