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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Can we blame video games for violence?

Lonely and miserable, the Florida shooter played video games for as much as 15 hours a day, Paul Gold, a former neighbor, told the Miami Herald. “It was kill, kill, kill, blow up something, and kill some more, all day.”

There’s no link between shoot-em-up video games and real-world violence, argues Christopher J. Ferguson, a Stetson psychology professor, on The Conversation.

Grand Theft Auto is accused often of making violence seem like fun.

After the Valentine’s Day shooting at a Florida high school, Jared Moskowitz, a state legislator, said the gunman “was prepared to pick off students like it’s a video game.” His colleague, Rep. Brian Mast pointed to violent movies and video games.

In January, when two students were killed by a 15-year-old in Benton, Kentucky, the state’s governor blamed popular culture, notes Ferguson. “We can’t celebrate death in video games, celebrate death in TV shows, celebrate death in movies, celebrate death in musical lyrics and remove any sense of morality and sense of higher authority and then expect that things like this are not going to happen,” said Gov. Matt Bevin.

After the Stoneman Douglas High shooting, Bevin said, video games create a “culture of death” that celebrates “the slaughtering of people.”

Ferguson has studied violent video games for almost 15 years, he wries.

. . . there is no evidence to support these claims that violent media and real-world violence are connected. As far back as 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that research did not find a clear connection between violent video games and aggressive behavior. Criminologists who study mass shootings specifically refer to those sorts of connections as a “myth.”

School shooters are much less likely to play violent video games habitually than the average male high school student, Ferguson writes, citing his own research and a federal study. He estimates 70 percent of teen-age males — but only 20 percent of school shooters — play violent video games regularly.

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