US president Barack Obama is calling for congress to spend $10 million so the Center for Disease Control can conduct research on the relationship between video games, "media images" and violence.
This follows news of several games industry delegates meeting with vice president Joe Biden last week to discuss the issue of video games and their relation to real world violence. Biden remained firm that he wasn't singling video games out and realised this was a complex issue that involved hearing from various organisations. White House administrative officials told Polygon that Biden met with 220 different organizations across 22 different meetings.
Biden seemed unconvinced that video games were responsible for violent tragedies such as the recent Sandy Hook shooting resulting in 20 children and six adult staff dead, but he deemed the issue warranted further investigation.
"We know there is no single answer and quite frankly we don't even know whether some of the things people think impact on [gun violence] actually impact on it or not," said Biden.
Obama took this uncertainty to heart. "We don't benefit from ignorance. We don't benefit from not knowing the science from this epidemic of violence," he stated.
Prior to the president's memorandum today, for the last 17 years federally funded research that could potentially "advocate or promote gun control" had been barred by Congress. According to NBC News, pro-gun advocates - such as the NRA - had prevented funding for the Center of Disease Control's firearms research since the mid-90s.
According to Dr. Mark Rosenberg, president of the Task Force for Global Health and director of the CDC's Center for Injury Prevention and Control from 1994 to 1999, the NRA and Congressional leaders began suppressing information that was damning to gun advocates in 1996. Information like homes with guns having three times the risk of homicide and five times the risk of suicide, according to a 1993 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Basically, they've [the CDC] been terrorised by the NRA," said Rosenberg, who claimed that the NRA attacked some scientists, attempted to discredit their research, and even threatened their families.
"These were not mild campaigns," he said. "When the NRA comes after you, they come after you with both barrels."
Stephen Teret, director for the Center for Law and the Public's Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg noted that research into other public health problems has cut down on deaths dramatically over the last several years.
"When I first started, there were 50,000 people a year dying on the highways. Now it's 32,000 and that's because there's been superb scientific research," Teret noted. "We need to be able to address gun-related injuries in the same scientific manner as highway injuries."
Obama's Presidential Memorandum on researching video games and the media's relation to guns is but one among 23 actions the president is taking towards reducing gun violence. Others steps include: reforming background check loopholes on prospective gun buyers, banning "military-style" assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making schools safer, increasing access to mental health services and other "common-sense steps."
According to White House officials, lifting the ban on gun research fell under these "common-sense steps."
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