Blood spilled from another US high school shooting has yet to dry – and video games are already being blamed

Pundits quick to erect straw man

Comment Once again, a mass murderer has opened fire at a school in America – this one is Santa Fe High School in Texas – and video games are already being blamed. Rather than, oh, say, gun control, or the lack thereof.

Details are still coming in. The attack happened just a few hours ago. At this stage, it appears nine students and one teacher are dead, ten more wounded, explosives were potentially found at the school, and a suspect has been taken into custody. In his segment on Fox News covering the shooting, anchor Jon Scott was chatting to a fellow pundit about the case and came out with this zinger.

"Just the fact that so many kids are awash in video games, they spend so much time in front of television screens with some of these very violent and realistic video games, that has to be something that gets looked at, but how do you police that kind of thing?"

His on-air colleague agreed, opining that when he took his mom out for a meal on Mother's Day, and was shocked to see kids playing "violent" games on handhelds in the restaurant. He said that parents need to take responsibility, presumably in stopping tykes playing violent computer games, and that we "can't expect the police nor the government to continuously monitor what's going on."

Fingering video games as the cause of such mass shootings is a common excuse but seldom one trotted out this early. Kentucky governor Matt Bevin at least waited a day or so before blaming a horrific school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead on computer games.


Kentucky gov: Violent video games, not guns, to blame for Florida school massacre


All this despite very little evidence that video games have any effect on mass shootings, despite plenty of people looking for a connection. The perpetrators are usually people with mental health issues, or substance addictions, and have all-too easy access to firearms thanks to the parlous state of most of America's gun regulations.

There is a correlation, however, between increased background checks for firearms ownership and the substantial reduction of mass shootings, amazingly enough. Such incidents dropped drastically in the UK and Australia after stricter gun laws were introduced, and gun owners were thoroughly checked before being allowed to shoot.

Here at El Reg, we have one top-class rifle shooter who practices his art in the UK, and your humble hack here in California enjoys the occasional morning down on the range getting a nice tight grouping on the target. So we're not reflexively antigun. These weapons should only be in the hands of trained and stable people.

Getting that last point established in America is tricky to say the least. There are as many guns as people, and any gun control legislation would take time and effort to make work. You can't take away folks' guns, yet some reasonable regulations look likely to reduce such tragic shootings over time.

It's too early to say what the cause of today's shooting was, but we're willing to bet violent video games are not a reason why an individual went on the rampage and managed to kill so many people. Sadly the fact that having the tools to mass murder easily available is too much of an uncomfortable truth for the gun lobby and the politicians in their pockets, so video games make an easy straw man.

Meanwhile, the kids get it. Some students from Santa Fe High School, along with tens of thousands of others, took part in a national day of protest calling for stricter gun control laws last month. Parents get it too, as do the millions of responsible gun owners who see no problems with being a bit more careful with who gets access to weapons. But that counts for very little when the lobbyists are running the show. ®

Updated to add

The parents of one of the victims, Shana Fisher, 16, claimed the shooter, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, killed her and others because she rejected his repeated romantic advances. Pagourtzis' lawyers denied this was the case.

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