updated 03:10 pm EST, Wed January 16, 2013
Memorandum addresses automatic weapon ban, other studies
A Presidential Memorandum has been issued in the wake of the Newtown, CT shootings to "protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence." Embedded in the proposal is a requirement for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct research into any potential connection between video games, other media, and violence. The proposal is just one of the President's initiatives, all of which are commencing today. Speaking at a nationally-televised address, the President said that "if there's even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there's even one life that can be saved, then we have an obligation to try it."
Up to $10 million out of the total $500 million budget for the various programs would be allocated for the CDC to conduct the research. No specific guidance has been given on how the research would be conducted, but senior White House officials believe the research would commence in 2014. President Obama lifted an freeze on government studies into gun violence, which came about in the previous administration from a legislative proposal by the NRA pushed through by Congress.
Officials with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said that they "concur with President Obama's call today for all Americans to do their part, and agree with the report's conclusion that 'the entertainment and video game industries have a responsibility to give parents tools and choices about the movies and programs their children watch and the games their children play'."
Referring to research completed over the last two decades in the US and other nations, the ESA said in an email statement to Polygon that "the same entertainment is enjoyed across all cultures and nations, but tragic levels of gun violence remain unique to our country. Scientific research and international and domestic crime data all point toward the same conclusion: entertainment does not cause violent behavior in the real world."
Countries such as Canada and Sweden, even with high levels of per-capita gun ownership, simply do not have the level of mass killings and shooting incidents -- or gun-related homicide rates -- that the United States does. In part this could be due to the fact that most other first-world nations have long banned assault and other military-style weapons among the populace, but other factors such as economic disparity, race relations and mental healthcare may also play a role.
In December, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) put forth draft legislation that would require the National Academy of Sciences, in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission, to "study the impact of violent video games and violent video programming on children," despite the fact that a number of such studies have already been done.
When the bill was proposed, Electronista spoke with a staffer in Senator Rockefeller's office who told us that "the Senator believes that the intensity of [violent video games] is the issue. Couple that with the interactivity, and it's a tool to mold young minds." When pressed about why video game violence does not seem to be a factor in killings in other countries, the spokesperson replied that "the Senator is concerned with US citizens and his constituency." The proposed draft legislation never made it to debate. The President's memorandum encompasses most of the proposals in the draft legislation, but also addresses a wide range of other measures, from requiring background checks on all gun sales to reviewing gun safety technology and encouraging gun makers to incorporate the features into future weapons.
There is an extant rating system established for video game content by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) that uses a six-rating scale, enhanced with clarifying remarks on the type of content found in the game to aid parents in making intelligent gaming purchasing decisions. For instance, first-person shooter Halo 4 is ranked mature (17 years of age and older) for blood and violence. The more profane Borderlands 2 has been given the same rating, for blood and gore, intense violence, language, sexual themes, and use of alcohol.
Rhythm game Dance Dance Revolution which NBC News reports was heavily played by Sandy Hook school shooter Adam Lanza, is rated E10-- suitable for audiences 10 years of age and up, for language and suggestive themes, and has no gun-related content.
A full list of the President's proposals and orders can be found here.