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A Gamer’s Response to the NRA [OPINION]

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After the tragic shooting in Newtown, many things went through my mind but one of the first was, “What will the NRA say about this?”  Any time there is massive gun violence in our nation, the NRA is one of the first to comment.  To their credit, the NRA decided to withhold any statement on the shooting to allow family and friends a chance to grieve, something they’ve been criticized for not doing in the past.  On December 21st, a week after the shooting, the National Rifle Association finally made their statement.  Now, I must say that I don’t always agree with the folks at the NRA.  To be perfectly honest, more often than not I think they take things a bit too far.  But something we both agree on is the belief that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right for Americans.  I may not agree with certain suggestions from the NRA and other gun enthusiasts, but I’m not one that wishes to abolish all arms in our country.  While reading the statement, nothing really surprised me.  Everything they said were responses I expected after a tragedy like this, but there’s one part that really got to me.  Towards the end of page three, Wayne Lapierre shifted his focus and started to place blame where it doesn’t belong, video games and movies. Lapierre says,

And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country 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. And here’s one: it’s called Kindergarten Killers. It’s been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn’t or didn’t want anyone to know you had found it? 

Then there’s the blood-soaked slasher films like “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” that are aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every day, and a thousand music videos that portray life as a joke and murder as a way of life. And then they have the nerve to call it “entertainment.”

As a gamer, I take great offense whenever people attempt to blame violent video games and movies for people committing horrible acts.  It happened after Columbine, and now like clockwork the NRA is attempting to divert attention to video games and movies.  And that’s all it is, a diversion.  The NRA knows full well that after any shooting like this, we as a nation are very critical of our gun laws.  Knowing that, it seems like the NRA is doing what they can to place reasonable doubt in people’s minds so they don’t wonder if stricter gun laws should a possibility.  I’m not making a statement here on gun control or regulations, just saying that if guns aren’t to blame for this, which I agree they aren’t  how can you blame video games?

I’m a passionate gamer.  Video games have been a hobby of mine since I was five years old and my parents brought home the classic Nintendo Entertainment System and I first played “Super Mario Bros.”  Over the past several years, I have spent many hours playing such games as “Red Dead Redemption”, the “Assassin’s Creed” series, and “Saints Row the Third”.  Not familiar with them?  Well, “Red Dead Redemption” is basically an Old West version of “Grand Theft Auto”, violence level and all, the “Assassin’s Creed” series is a sci-fi/historical hybrid dealing with the long and bloody battle through the ages between the Templars and the Assassins for the fate of the world, and “Saints Row the Third” makes “Grand Theft Auto” look like “The 700 Club”.  Why do I mention this?  For several reasons, but mainly to make the point that I’m 31-years-old, a loving husband and father, I regularly play violent video games, and I’ve never committed acts of violence.  I had responsible parents that knew what I was playing growing up, censored if necessary, and made sure I understood that everything I played was fictional.  Yes, I’m only a single player out of millions, not a perfect example.  But how many people willingly expose themselves to violent video games on a regular basis, and how many of those people commit violent acts as a result?  If violent video games were truly the cause of tragedies like Columbine and Newtown, shouldn’t there be much more violent acts given the very large fan base for such games?  And what about “Kindergarten Killers”?  OK, a horrific excuse for a game.  But a game that many gamers, including this one, were not even aware of until you gave it the greatest free publicity in your statement.

To touch briefly on the comments about movies, the NRA used “American Psycho” and “Natural Born Killers” as examples of violent movies?  Are they violent movies?  Without a doubt.  But these are also movies that haven’t been in the public eye for almost two decades.  Are these the only violent movies ever made?  Absolutely not.  Violence in movies has been around for as long as movies have been.  The violence in films has evolved and changed because movies as a whole have evolved and changed.  These movies are being singled out because of their extreme and graphic depictions of violence, with more modern examples would be the “Saw” films.  But as I said, violence has always been in film.  Let’s take John Wayne as an example.  The Duke is an American icon, beloved and idolized by many who look at him as what a real man and a real American should be.  How many movie characters died by his hand through his long and impressive career?  I don’t hear anyone complaining that the John Wayne is a bad influence, or causing people to act out in a violent manner.

But let’s go with their logic here for a moment and say that video games are the cause of violent acts in society.  Well, it seems logical when you think about it.  I’m sure the bombing of Pearl Harbor was because the Japanese played too much “Halo”.  The Spanish Inquisition was probably a result of exposure to “Call of Duty”.  The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was definitely caused by guys playing “Mafia”.  Oh wait… that’s right!  Violence has been around for as long as society has, but video games have only been around for the past four decades.  Humans are violent creatures, as history has more than shown.  Human beings are violent creatures, and have been long before Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft started providing us with violent video games.  Violent video games are not a cause of a violent society, but a result of that society.  There wouldn’t be a market for violent video games if we weren’t already violent.  If you have a problem with violent video games, don’t blame the games, blame the society.  You can try to ban violent video games and guns, but you’re treating a symptom of the overall problem.  You show me one person who acted out in a violent manner after playing a game like “Grand Theft Auto” and I will show you a million more that played the exact same game and never lashed out once.  Maybe it’s high time we start placing responsibility where it belongs, and stop the scapegoat game because we fear what it might say about us as human beings.

You can read the entire NRA press release here.

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