There has been an average of one mass shooting per day in America since 2013. In 2019, there were 417 mass shootings resulting in hundreds of deaths and injuries, according to the Gun Violence Archive. What is the reason? If you ask some, the answer is violent video games. For years, there has been a supposed relationship between those who play violent video games developing aggressive behaviors and some even perpetrating atrocities, namely mass shootings.
Even President Trump and his legion of supporters associate violent video games with mass shootings. “I’m hearing more and more people saying the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” stated President Trump after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018, according to TIME magazine.
Even the American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics advocates against children and adolescents engaging in violent video games. Many agree that there is a link between violent video games, mental health, and mass shootings but is there a scientific basis to these claims?
President Trump may be totally missing the mark. According to a statement from the American Psychological Association, only a small subset of the population experiences a rise in aggressive feelings after playing violent video games.
Russell Shilling, chief scientific officer at the APA affirms that there is a difference between aggression and violence and that being aggressive does not inherently make someone violent or dangerous. Patrick Markey, director of The Interpersonal Research Laboratory, states, “While over 70% of high school students play violent video games, only 20% of school shooters have reported playing these games” (CNBC). This statement notes that only a small percentage of all school shooters actually engage in violent video games.
The American Psychological Association believes that there is no clear link between teens who play violent video games and teens who commit school shootings. What do actual high school students believe? Is there a link between mass shootings and violent video games? Thomas Edison High School Senior, Kiya Legall, weighs in on the polarizing topic of school shootings and violent video games.
Legall stated, “I don’t think that violent video games are to blame for mass shootings or school shootings. What is to blame is the easy access troubled youth have to guns in our nation. If guns weren’t so prevalent, then maybe mass shootings and school shootings wouldn’t happen so much.” Many agree with Legall’s beliefs.
In a poll of 15 high school students, where I asked, “Do you believe violent video games are to blame for mass/school shootings?”, 9 out of 15 answered no while 4 out of 15 answered yes and 2 out of 15 answered unsure. This indicates that many high school students believe that while mass/school shootings are a problem, the cause of this problem is not the violence in video games that youth are exposed to.
There is no clear cut answer to why mass/school shootings happen. There are many theories and beliefs, with one prevalent one being that exposure to violent video games leads to school shootings. There is no scientific evidence to corroborate this claim and many believe that the causes are numerous factors far beyond violent media. This leads one to ask what the true cause of school shootings is, for which there is no answer.