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Are video games and poor mental healthcare the real cause of mass shootings?

Following two mass shootings that happened in El Paso Texas and Dayton Ohio which left a total of 31 dead and over 50 wounded, US president Donald Trump attempted to point to the root cause of these shootings and hundreds more like it that have been happening in the US.

Trump said at a press conference that the Internet and social media have contributed to many mass shootings by radicalizing shooters and he wants the FBI to be able to detect and intervene when various warning signs appear. Trump blamed the presence of violent video games and wants to address the lax state of mental healthcare in the country. As far as the actual guns are concerned, it appears that Trump does not believe that they have any role in this by saying "mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun."

When it comes to video games, politicians are quick to jump onto the bandwagon of blaming them for mass shootings, as they are a simple scapegoat for the complex problem for what causes mass shootings. The link between video games and mass shootings is a tenuous one at best, with the main factor connecting the two being an increase in aggression correlated to playing violent video games. This however does not mean that playing video games makes someone commit a mass shooting, and some studies have shown that violent video games does not correlate to an increase in violence.  

On the mental health side of things, a similar pattern emerges, with rates of mental health issues being similar to that of the US, but the prevalence of mass shootings varying wildly. While addressing the issues raised by mental health is an important one, when it comes to the problem of mass shootings, there might be larger factors that should be considered first. 

This brings it back to the factor that cannot be argued is present in ever mass shooting, guns. While there are certainly other factors that contribute to the widespread issue of gun violence, the presence of guns, especially the kind that can kill many people very quickly, is something that continues to be ignored when it comes to passing laws to limit these atrocities. In February the House, controlled by Democrats, passed a bill to require background checks on the federal level for all gun sales. Since then, the Senate, controlled by Republicans, has not voted on the bill, though with these recent shootings there are calls to reconsider that position. 

Trump expressed some level of support for the kind of bill passed by Democrats in a recent tweet, saying "Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks," though he followed that by saying "perhaps marrying this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform." The idea of combining bills related to immigration and gun reform is a complicated one, as both are highly divisive issues that have not found common ground on their own. It is unlikely that combining the two will make it any easier to pass them.

 


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