With a nation reeling from dual mass shootings in El Paso, Tex., on Aug. 3 and in Dayton, Ohio, the following day, both Democratic and Republican politicians snapped into sound-bite mode.
Predictably, the Democrats elevated to a high pitch calls for more restrictions on firearms, specifically increased background checks and the outlawing of assault-style weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Republicans, including U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, put violent video games in their sights. Sounding a familiar chord, President Donald J. Trump criticized the media.
Though diametrically opposed politically, the two sides found common ground in targeting freedoms in the Bill of Rights. Video games and the media are covered under the First Amendment, guns and ammunition by the Second Amendment.
Meanwhile, local aficionados of guns and video games had their own notions about whether their favored pastimes play a role in such violence.
“I don’t think playing video games makes you want to go kill people,” said Carl Griffin as shopped for video games with his son recently at the Game Stop in El Centro.
“Video games already have a regulation system and I don’t think further regulation would help, nor would gun regulation. People willing to break the law will break the law and not be deterred by a regulation,” he added.
Arguing video games were being used as a scapegoat, he echoed the mental health community’s most recent motto “If you see something say something” about the responsibilities of those who know people who commit mass shootings
“The idea that somebody’s family doesn’t know they are stockpiling weapons doesn’t make sense to me. In Ohio a lot of people said they knew this was going to happen. This is their fault,” Griffin said.
Game Stop manager Michelle Grado agreed with her customer that regulation is not the answer.
“I don’t really think video games encourage people to go out and do such horrendous things and I do not believe further regulation could have prevented a shooting. Our store already has a policy for rating games,” she said.
Explaining the rating system used at the store, Grado said proper ID is required to purchase certain games. Ratings include E for everyone, 10+ for teens, and M for mature for over 17.
From the gun owner’s view Mary Harmon of Border Tactical in El Centro said California has adequate laws to prevent guns from being sold to those who should not have them.
“There are comprehensive safeguards currently in place that govern the sale of guns and ammunition. California is the fourth-highest regulated state in America when it comes to gun ownership,” she said.
Harmon referred to a statistic she saw on CBS Sunday Morning with Jayne Pauley that “two percent of gun deaths are attributed to mass shootings.”
Mental health may be more of a culprit to recent school shootings than either guns or video games, Harmon added.