Video games: To censor or not to censor?

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John McClatchy

Are violent video games the cause of mass shootings, and can censoring these games prevent the shootings?

Columbine High School. Virginia Tech. Aurora, Colorado. Newtown, Connecticut. The Washington Naval Yard. All these places have one thing in common: they were all the sites of horrendous mass shootings. These mass shootings have become a major problem here in America, as mentally ill individuals with access to firearms have stormed movie theaters, schools, or even the Naval Yard, to just unload. In each of the shootings listed above, the death toll ranges from 12 to 33.

In the wake of these tragedies, popular opinions have driven Congress to bring forth new gun restrictions. After the Newtown school shooting in December of last year, President Obama signed executive orders restricting the purchase of certain weapons. This was due to the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) did not allow the same legislation earlier this year to be put on the floor.

At the time, when so many were concerned about gun control, Wayne LaPierre, the Executive Vice President for the National Rifle Association (NRA), tried to shift blame on violent video games, claiming “… there exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people through violent video games…”

Now, with the recent Washington Naval Yard shooting just over a month ago, the NRA has again blamed violent video games, in particular, targeting Grand Theft Auto V, which released the day after. Grand Theft Auto is notorious for being excessively violent and inappropriate, garnering criticism from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, FOX News, and of course, the NRA.

This raises the question: do violent video games play a large role in these shootings, and if it does, should the federal government censor these games, like what occurs in Australia and Germany?

When asked for his opinion, Mr. Burke, a history teacher for the Upper School, said that while these games can desensitize one to violence and can add to the factors, it is not the sole cause. And when asked if the federal government should censor these games, he said that this would go against the Constitution, as it would impede on a company’s right to free speech.

Burke went on to say that it is the duty of the citizen, and a child’s parents, to decide what they are exposed to, and that the ESRB rating system is sufficient enough to tell parents and citizens what is in the game.

Mrs. Lappas, the American Government teacher, voices a similar opinion, in that these games play a role in these shootings, but it also involves lax gun laws and a lapse in the mental health system, as most if not all of these perpetrators were mentally ill, but could still get their hands on these guns. Mrs. Lappas also stressed that with these games, parents and teachers need to teach children empathy, and to separate these games from reality.

Even though Wayne LaPierre has called for the exceedingly violent media should cut back on the violence, nothing has been done. Rockstar Games, the developer of Grand Theft Auto V, has made their most recent game as violent, if not more violent, than its predecessors. Hollywood still pumps out violent movies, such as World War Z and Iron Man 3, and artists such as Lil Wayne, Marilyn Manson and Eminem still release violent and sexually explicit music.

Only time will tell if Wayne LaPierre is wrong or right. With the way things are going though, unless there is a direct link between violence in the media and mass shootings, the video game, music and movie industry will not stop putting out violent and sexually explicit material.