By: Brian Crecente
President Barack Obama today called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct further research into the relationship between video games, media images and violence.
That Presidential Memorandum was among 23 gun violence reduction executive actions laid out this morning during a nationally televised address. Those actions, all of which are being initiated today, include proposing bans on “military-style” assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, increasing mental health services, making schools safer and improving background checks.
Addressing a packed room filled with the press, victims of previous shootings and children who have written to the White House about the shootings, President Obama acknowledged that the road ahead would be difficult.
“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,” he said. “I will put everything I’ve got into this, and so will Joe, but I tell you the only way we can change is if the American people demand it.”
Video game industry officials, researchers and executives were among the last of the groups Biden met with. In that meeting, those present told Polygon, Biden stressed that he wasn’t singling out the video game industry and that he came to the meeting with “no judgment.” On Monday, Biden passed on his recommendations to President Obama and 48 hours later the President presented them to the country. The broad measures come in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six adult staff dead. Following the shooting, President Obama asked Vice President Joe Biden to form a task force to examine how to decrease violence in America. That process included 22 different meetings with 220 different organizations, senior White House administrative officials tell Polygon.
For years, the CDC and other federally funded scientific agencies have been barred by Congress from using funds to “advocate or promote gun control.” Some have argued that that ban prevented the organizations from conducting research into the causes of gun violence. Today’s Presidential Memorandum on the topic looks to discount that argument.
In the memorandum, the President is directing the CDC and scientific agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. The memo, according to White House officials, is based on new legal analysis that found that such research would not be barred. It calls for the CDC to immediately start assessing existing strategies for preventing gun violence and identifying the most pressing research questions. President Obama is also calling for Congress to provide $10 million for the CDC to conduct new research, including investigating the relationship between video games, “media images” and violence.
“Congress will fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” President Obama said.
The White House didn’t clarify whether media images refers to movies and television or something else, or how that research would be conducted, though senior officials did note the research would likely start in 2014.
Reached for comment today, officials for the Entertainment Software Association said they appreciate President Obama’s and Biden’s “leadership and the thoughtful, comprehensive process of the White House Gun Violence Commission.”
“We 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,'” association officials said in a prepared statement given to Polygon. “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.
“We will embrace a constructive role in the important national dialogue around gun violence in the United States, and continue to collaborate with the Administration and Congress as they examine the facts that inform meaningful solutions.” – ESA
“We will embrace a constructive role in the important national dialogue around gun violence in the United States, and continue to collaborate with the Administration and Congress as they examine the facts that inform meaningful solutions.”
Obama’s $500 million anti-gun-violence package fell into four broad categories: closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands; banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and taking other “common-sense steps” to reduce gun violence; making schools safer; and increasing access to mental health services.
Ending the freeze on gun violence research, which includes new research into any link between video games and gun violence, falls under the “common-sense steps,” according to White House officials.
Other research suggested includes a call to invest more money into the existing National Violent Death Reporting System. The system currently collects anonymous data when a firearm is used in homicides or suicides.
“Along with our freedom to live our lives as we will comes an obligation to allow others to do the same,” President Obama said. “We don’t live in isolation. We live in a society, a government of, by and for the people. We are responsible for each other.
“When it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now. Let’s do the right thing. Let’s do the right thing for them and for this country that we love so much.”
This article original ran on Polygon on Jan. 16, 2013.
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