The US is reeling from yet another mass shooting that took place over the weekend. A lone gunman, identified by the police as a 21-year-old white male, opened fire and killed 21 people in El Paso, TX. The shooting happened in a Walmart store and the police has confirmed that they are treating the incident as “domestic terrorism.” But the story did not end there.
13 hours after the El Paso shooting, another one unfolded, this time in Dayton, OH. A shooter with automatic rifles killed 9 people before police responded and shot him dead. The Dayton Police Department said it took officers about 30 seconds to kill the shooter but even with that kind of swift action, 9 lives were still lost.
In his address to the nation shortly after the shootings, president Trump was quick to point out that violent video games had something to do with the increasing wave of gun violence in the US. This talking point has been very common among the GOP over the last few years. The president’s claims linking video games with mass shootings were also shared by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
It’s also not the first time Trump has blamed violent video games for gun violence. Shortly after the Parkland, FL. shooting that killed 17 students, the president also linked violent video games and violent movies to gun violence. But it doesn’t seem like there is enough research to back this claim. In fact, an Oxford study published earlier this year did not find any correlation between mass shootings and violent video games.
Besides, this claim doesn’t even seem to apply to other countries out there. In Japan, for example, exposure to video games is relatively higher compared to the US. As a matter of fact, violent video games are integrated into Japanese culture. In 2016, 61% of Japanese played video games, some of which are more violent and perverted than what most people are used to in the US. Despite this, gun-related deaths in the country per 100,000 people were almost zero.
Apply this logic to the US and you start to see a whole different story. For example, the Pew Research Center found that in 2015, 49% of American adults played video games. In the same year, there were 36,000 gun-related deaths reported in the country. Even with higher exposure to violent video games, Japan seems to have virtually zero gun deaths and the US has thousands.
It is worth noting that gun laws in Japan are strict. Carrying, processing, buying, and selling guns in the Asian country is banned. Many lobbyists calling for tighter regulations on guns have been pointing out these facts to try and discredit the myth linking video games to gun violence. Some have even argued that perhaps the strict gun laws in Japan could be playing the key role in keeping gun violence at almost zero. But the GOP clearly isn’t looking at the stats.
But then again, if having strict gun control is the solution to the sort of gun violence we’ve witnessed in the past year alone, is that a route the US should take? The country is divided on that idea, but the government insisting on blaming video games for these deaths when that is clearly not the source of the problem won’t solve anything.