Congressional Task Force Recommends More Research on Media and Violence

February 8, 2013
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Yesterday, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) released “A Comprehensive Plan That Reduces Gun Violence and Respects the 2nd Amendment Rights of Law-Abiding Americans,” which describes the recommendations of the Congressional Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. Nearly all of the recommendations the task force made pertain to guns, mental health, and school safety. However, the last recommendation pertains to violence in the media:

Address our culture’s glorification of violence seen and heard though our movie screens,television shows, music and video games: Congress should fund scientific research on the relationship between popular culture and gun violence, while ensuring that parents have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about what their families watch, listen to, and play.

In discussing the above point in more detail, the task force acknowledges that the current research does not support a link between violent media and violent behavior. Regardless, it advocates for further scientific research:

Many Americans are concerned that television programs, movies, video games and other forms of media are starting to desensitize young Americans to violence, specifically gun violence, at a very early age. While we have a shared responsibility in this area, it is essential that parents, educators, and our communities at large are aware of and use the tools available to them and that those tools are sufficient to help make informed decisions about the content exposed to our children. While recent scientific research has not demonstrated a causal relationship between modes of entertainment and violence, more research should be done, including with the backing of uninterested government scientists and experts. We support making available more information about content choices to our parents and communities, and urge that further scientific research be conducted on possible relationships between the depiction of violence in entertainment media and gun violence in our communities.

  • The CDC and other impartial research entities should supplement existing research on the relationship between video games, the media, and gun violence.
  • The entertainment and video game industries have a responsibility to give parents the tools to make appropriate choices about what their children watch and play. It is clear to us that these industries take this responsibility seriously. However, as new technologies emerge and new entertainment platforms are developed, Congress must continue to work with these industries to ensure that their efforts remain successful.

The document describing the entirety of the task force’s recommendations is embedded below. While Representative Thompson and the members of his task force are firmly focused on the root causes of gun violence, the mandate for further action related to media is of concern. They recognize that recent scientific research doesn’t show a causal relationship to gun violence, but, in asking for even more research, they ignore 25 years of research. The task force’s recommendation also conveys the idea that much of the existing research has not been impartial (frequently, the bias that has been found in the research has actually been in favor of the anti-video game camp). Further, in asking for the tools to help parents make decisions about their children’s media consumption, the task force praises media companies for the steps they have already taken to inform consumers about violent content, but the recommendation also implies that the current elective ratings systems that are in use by video game companies, publishers, and more are inadequate.

Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Recommendations by RepThompson

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Betsy Gomez is the Web Editor for CBLDF.