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Capitol Hill Zeroes in on Regulating Video Games

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Video gamers have a reputation for preferring their virtual reality over the one the rest of us have to deal with, but they may want to log-in to what’s happening on Capitol Hill before their pastime becomes the latest industry to fall under government control.


In remarks to a group in San Francisco, Sen. Dianne G. Feinstein (D.-N.Y.), according to the Associated Press, said April 3 video games need government regulation.

Video games have a very negative effect on young people, the senator said.

In the aftermath of the Dec. 17 spree shooting in Newtown, Conn., Feinstein introduced a bill targeting military-style long guns that would have outlawed thousands of specific guns, including the current consumer version of the iconic Thompson sub-machine gun.

Just as the current version of the Tommy Gun is not the same carried by paratroopers at Normandy, Feinstein’s bill ignores that just because a gun looks like a military gun, it is not actually a military-grade gun. The AR-15 rifle used by Adam Lanza in Newtown was not powerful enough to hunt deer, let alone carry on a firefight with the Taliban.

All that matters to Feinstein is that the weapon was a virtual military gun.

With the actual move by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) to block the Feinstein bill, the former San Francisco mayor is left to regulate the virtual world.

Feinstein joined her colleague Sen. John D. “Jay” Rockefeller IV (D.-W.V.), who is making the government control video games, first setting the table with a study, then following up with his own bill.

“As Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, I have introduced legislation to direct the National Academy of Sciences to investigate the impact of violent video games and other content on children’s well-being,” Rockefeller said.


“Recent court decisions demonstrate that some people still do not get it,” he said. “They believe that violent video games are no more dangerous to young minds than classic literature or Saturday morning cartoons. Parents, pediatricians, and psychologists know better.”

What the oil scion meant to say is that bureaucrats know better.

Feinstein and Rockefeller are getting a key assist in the GOP House from Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R.-Va.), the chairman of the House’s Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee.

Wolf directed the National Science Foundation to study the link between video games and violence.

The NSF produced a study “Youth Violence: What we need to know,” written by Ohio State Prof. Brad J. Bushman, in which the professor makes the case that video games increase the odds young people will act out violently.

Bushman was an interesting choice because he is the same man, who in 2006 authored a study published in the journal Psychology Science “When God Sanctions Killing: Effect of scriptural violence on aggression.”

The professor wrote then: “People who believe that God sanctions violence are more likely than others to behave aggressively themselves.”

The Bible’s effect was not confined to believers either.

“We found compelling evidence that exposure to a scriptural depiction of violence or to violence authorized by deity can cause readers to behave more aggressively,” he wrote. “Even among our participants who were not religiously devout, exposure to God-sanctioned violence increased subsequent aggression.”


How do you regulate video games and not censure the Bible for the same reasons?

Wolf is silent on what Bushman called “the insidious power of exposure to literary scriptural violence,” but he is not shy about the dangers of video games.

“In addition to Lanza, there has been evidence that violent video games played a role in the lives of other mass shooters, including Anders Breivik, the Norwegian who shot 69 people at a youth camp in 2011, and Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters at Columbine High School in 1999,” Wolf said.

Of course, after Columbine, Wolf was one of the Republicans who worked unsuccessfully to restrict gun rights.

Regulating video games speaks to a tendency by liberals to blame influences, not people—and it strikes at the heart of democracy. If video games, or the Bible for that matter, are to blame for an individual’s acts, we are on the path leading us away from government by the people.

In the end, studying, then regulating video games is a fool’s mission to understand the rationale of madness. It is a virtual dog chasing his virtual tail. The best defense against a spree shooter is an armed citizenry—regardless of why he goes on his spree.

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