by Bob Barr
In interviews following the horrendous mass murders by lone gunmen in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend, Texas’ governor and lieutenant governor, President Trump, and House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy commented that factors involving mental illness, along with cultural factors such as the popularity and pervasiveness of violent video games, and information available to internet-savvy young adults on the “dark web,” needed to be considered in analyzing and developing strategies to prevent future mass shootings.
Democrats were — as usual — quick to dismiss any suggestion that video gaming or other cultural factors (except for “racism” perpetrated by President Trump) might be among the factors causing what has become an all-too-familiar pattern of young males using firearms to commit mass murder. This knee-jerk reaction against consideration of such factors limits the likelihood that government at any level will be able to develop a comprehensive strategy seriously to address the problem of mass shootings; foredooming law enforcement simply to doing their best to respond to such incidents.
None of the Republican leaders declared that violent video games were the sole, or even necessarily the major factor prompting last weekend’s or other recent mass murderers to act as they did. They simply urged the inclusion of such matters in any serious, long-term strategy to stave off future such horrendous incidents.
Predictably, of course, the $140 billion global video gaming industry consistently pushes back against any hint of a link between mass shootings in real life and the gun carnage depicted in the industry’s phenomenally popular games such as “Call of Duty.” The industry’s opposition is driven by dollars, despite the veneer of First Amendment verbiage.
For Democratic politicians, the deep antagonism to consideration of cultural factors contributing to mass shootings, including the obsession many young male adults have with video games, is driven almost exclusively by partisan politics.
Simply put, consideration of any culture-based factors — such as deficiencies in our educational system, lack of community-based mental health facilities, breakdown of the family unit, decreased church attendance, and, yes, obsession with video gaming — detracts from the Democratic Party’s single-minded focus on gun control as the determining factor in the tragic phenomenon of mass shootings. The only apparent exception to the Democrats’ laser-like focus on gun control is their concern for “racism” and white supremacy as a causal factor. It’s a charge levelled to one degree or another at Trump by many, if not all, Democratic presidential wannabees.
The fact that guns, including so-called assault-style rifles, have been available to purchasers and firearm owners in the United States for as long as statistics on mass shootings have been maintained — even as the number of mass shootings has increased — appears irrelevant and inconsequential to Democrats and left-leaning pundits. The gun-control blinders they wear make it largely impossible to consider factors beyond that bromide. Studying factors beyond guns — the instrumentality with which mass shootings are by definition carried out — appears not a tool in the arsenal with which Democrats are willing to fight mass gun violence (again, except for charges of “racism”).
By thus constraining the universe of potential causes, and with it, the range of relevant and workable solutions to mass gun violence, the debate remains mired in partisanship and at best, very short-term measures. Focusing exclusively on gun control as the solution to the deep-seated problems rending 21st century American culture (and western civilization generally), is far easier than tackling the root causes of mental illness, family breakdown, and extreme alienation that infects so many young people in contemporary society. But that easy solution unfortunately finds refuge in the hyper-partisan environment which both major political parties now voluntarily inhabit.
The one glimmer of hope that has emerged from these latest mass shootings is that the FBI has announced a comprehensive program to study factors that might foster the evil leading to such acts . Let us hope that political leaders from both major parties will allow the FBI to pursue such a program unimpeded.
Bob Barr (@BobBarr) represented Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He currently serves as president and CEO of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation.