If it’s true that art imitates life, should the government be able to control art like it controls life? On January 30, 2013, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to discuss gun violence. In addition to Gabrielle Gifford’s plea for legislators to act, Senator Charles Grassley (Republican) urged legislators to consider holding the entertainment industry responsible. According to him, and the National Rifle Association, violent video games influence what is acceptable in society. Therefore, they would prefer the focus be on regulating the gaming industry rather than restrictions on gun ownership.
Unfortunately for the NRA, it’s very difficult to regulate the sensationalism within the entertainment industry beyond advisory warnings. In 2011, the United States Supreme Court struck down a state law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors. Because video games communicate ideas or social messages, it is protected under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. And while preventing users from imitating violence is an important government interest, no direct link between video games and violence to others exist.
Many reports provided that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter, Adam Lanza, was obsessed with video games after police found several games searching his home. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA used this to criticize the media and legislators for ignoring “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people … through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse.” But maybe it’s ignored because legislators can restrict guns better than video games. So should we stop debating where lies the blame and focus on Gifford’s plea for action?