During an interview yesterday on a talk radio program, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said violent video games are partly responsible for mass shootings such as this week's in Parkland, Florida which killed 17 people and wounded 14 more.
Photo by Scott Olson via Getty Images
"Guns are not the problem; we have a cultural problem in America," Bevin said on The Leland Conway Show Thursday morning local time, as noted by Ars Technca. The governor went on to cite other factors he believed to be responsible for the dramatic increase in mass shootings, including mental illness and side-effects of prescribed medications. He also pointed to American society having lost its "moral compass" before arriving at violent video games and the "culture of death" he believes they help celebrate.
"There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there's nothing to prevent the child from playing them," he said. "They celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off who's lying there begging for their life."
These are quote-unquote video games, and they're forced down our throats under the guise of protected speech. It's garbage. It's the same as pornography. They have desensitised people to the value of human life, to the dignity of women, to the dignity of human decency.
Conway, the host, followed up by asking if the governor was calling for a ban on violent video games or just urging parents to pay more attention. "I think we need to start by having an honest question about what value any of these things have," Bevin said.
Why do we need a video game, for example, that encourages people to kill people? Whether it's lyrics, whether it's TV shows, whether it's movies, I'm asking the producers of these products, these video games and these movies, ask yourselves what redemptive value, other than shock value, other than the hope you'll make a couple of bucks off it. At what price? At what price?
His rationale for blaming violent video games and other media was that guns haven't changed while our culture has. "The gun is not the problem," Bevin said at the beginning of his interview. "When we were young… people after Christmas would bring their guns to school and show it off to their friends." He mentioned shotguns and .22 Long Rifles specifically, both of which are much different than the AR-15-style rifle Nikolas Cruz used to massacre students.
The governor also said the number of guns in the US hasn't changed, but as a 2012 study by the US Congressional Research Service found, there are roughly twice as many guns per capita in the United States now as there were in 1968, the year after Bevin was born. The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment by Kotaku.
Bevin is no stranger to saying controversial things in the wake of mass shooting tragedies. After last October's shooting in Las Vegas, the most deadly in recent history, the governor tweeted "To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs... You can't regulate evil…"
Incidentally, disbarred Florida attorney Jack Thompson, a long-time opponent of violent video games, recently sent the governor a letter in the wake of Kentucky's own school shooting case last month. Thompson was eager to provide his services in helping to investigate how video games were involved in that violent tragedy, something he had tried to do after the Heath High School shooting from 1997. Representing the parents of three victims, he filed a $US130 million ($164 million) lawsuit against companies ranging from Time Warner to Nintendo. The case was eventually dismissed in 2002.