President Donald Trump held a national address Monday morning to discuss the mass shootings that transpired over the weekend, outlining future legislative moves and priorities to better tackle what has become a countrywide crisis. And, like some Republican leaders who discussed the issue over the weekend, the president partially placed the blame on video games.
Over a period of less than 24 hours, the U.S. saw two horrific mass shootings: one at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, where 20 people were killed and 26 were injured, and in Dayton, Ohio, where nine people were killed and dozens more were injured.
“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” Trump said on Monday. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this.”
Trump also took the time to discuss how the internet has played a part in disseminating violent and hurtful beliefs.
“We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds,” he said, likely in reference to the fact that the El Paso shooter apparently shared a manifesto on the forum 8chan before the shooting. Cloudflare, a service that reinforces website security, announced that it will stop servicing 8chan, following widespread criticism that the company was not doing enough to deter hate groups on its service.
The national address also saw Trump vowing to act with “urgent resolve” to help the increase in mass shootings, and denounced white supremacy as well as domestic terrorists. The president promised increased governmental support and investigations from the FBI for victims of recent tragedies, and said he wanted to do a better job of detecting early signs of violent bigotry. The government will apparently start working more closely with social media companies to achieve this. Trump called for a reform of mental health policies and treatment, and also expressed interest in forming new legislation that would give the death penalty for mass murderers.
Trump’s comments about video games follow a wider trend among top Republican leadership, who have recently used video games as a scapegoat for mass shootings. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both made comments this weekend that mentioned video games as a factor contributing to mass shootings. Patrick said that the El Paso shooter referenced Call of Duty in his manifesto, while McCarthy implored the government to do something about the video game industry.
“How long are we going to let, for example, and ignore at the federal level particularly, where they can do something about the video game industry?” McCarthy said on Fox News.
Fox News itself came under fire this weekend, as an anchor speculated that the El Paso shooter likely spent a lot of time playing things like Fortnite. Fox News commentators said that video games helped “dehumanize people” through mechanics like headshots.
Fox News, others in the media, and politicians are already blaming specifically video games and FPS games including FORTNITE of all things for yet another awful multiple mass shootings here in America, in Dayton and El Paso
video game guns don’t kill people, real guns do pic.twitter.com/Y5sq0nPH23
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) August 4, 2019
These comments, while unwarranted — studies show no links between video games and real-world violence — follow a larger trend. Video games have long been a go-to subject following large-scale acts of violence, if not used as a moral panic bogeyman. Last year, Trump sat down with members of the video game industry after the tragic Parkland shooting, and while no legislation followed, his thoughts on the medium painted a negative picture.
“The video games, the movies, the internet stuff is so violent. It’s so incredible,” Trump said at the time. “I see it. I get to see things that you would be — you’d be amazed at. I have a young — very young son who — I look at some of the things he’s watching, and I say, ‘How is that possible?’”