President Donald Trump struck the right rhetorical note in his response to the El Paso, Texas, mass shooting.

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” he said. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

But the president has yet to come to terms with how his past rhetoric has emboldened white supremacists, such as those he called “very fine people” who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

We will not, however, litigate the president’s divisive and reckless language here. Rather, we turn to one of the concrete policy proposals Trump put forth in his speech condemning the El Paso terror attack.

He suggested “red flag laws” that allow authorities to confiscate firearms from people deemed dangerous. He also suggested expanding capital punishment and speeding up the death penalty process.

Trump also brought out an old chestnut from past mass shootings: cracking down on violent video games.

That Trump pivoted immediately to blaming video games is not much of a surprise. The president’s informal brain trust at Fox News had teed up the issue the day before, and Republican officials appearing on the channel had already taken their swings at it.

“We’ve always had guns,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said last Sunday on “Fox & Friends Weekend.” “We’ve always had evil. But what’s changed where we see this rash of shooting? I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill.”

Later, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed to cite studies linking video games to violence.

“We’ve watched from studies, shown before, what it does to individuals, and you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others,” he said.

These studies, however, do not exist. We have more than 40 years of studies into whether or not video games or specifically violent video games contribute to real world violence, and no link has turned up in them. The most these studies have found is playing video games can cause a temporary rise in aggressive behavior, but so can watching a sporting event. It’s simply an adrenaline rush, and it fades quickly.

Patrick is correct that we’ve always had guns, but we haven’t always had readily available semi-automatic weapons. Meanwhile, we can look at other developed countries around the globe, and they have video games, and presumably they have evil people, but they do not have mass shootings on the scale the United States does.

People have always blamed the latest media and entertainment for societal ills. The novel was supposed to have made women unduly sexual. Comic books were supposed to have caused juvenile delinquency. Jazz was blamed for drug use. Rock music was blamed for everything. Dungeons & Dragons was blamed for ritual murders. Video games have been the bogeyman now for 30 years. They don’t even qualify as new media anymore: They’re everywhere, and almost everyone has played them at one time or another.

Yet during the period video games rose from obscurity to ubiquity, violent crime rates in America declined.

If we’re to be serious about addressing mass shootings, we can’t waste time with scapegoats. We’ve wasted decades already doing that.
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