Town near Sandy Hook launches $25 violent video game buy-back

Robby Soave | Reporter

A Connecticut town thirty miles from Sandy Hook will give people $25 to incinerate their violent video games.

Southington, Connecticut is encouraging owners of violent video games to deposit them in a local dumpster near a drive-in movie theater, so that the games can be collected and destroyed. In return, the local Chamber of Commerce will give participants $25 gift cards to be used toward purchases of non-violent entertainment.

The Violent Video Game Return Program has the backing of a diverse coalition of groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, YMCA, fire department, board of education, as well as town officials and clergy members.

The program was born out of a desire to respond proactively to the recent shooting at Sandy Hook elementary that left over 20 children dead, which some say was caused in part by violent video games.

Southington schools superintendent Joe Erardi hopes the program will prompt parents to talk to their kids about violent video games.

“There are youngsters who appear to be consumed with violent video games,” he said in a statement. “We’re asking parents to better understand what their child is doing. Have a conversation about next steps.”

Sponsors of the program released a statement saying that their actions were not intended to paint violent video games as a specific cause of the Sandy Hook shooting. But the statement did indict video games for contributing to a more violent culture.

“There is ample evidence that violent video games, along with violent media of all kinds, including TV and Movies portraying story after story showing a continuous stream of violence and killing, has contributed to increasing aggressiveness, fear, anxiety and is desensitizing our children to acts of violence including bullying,” wrote John Myers, a spokesperson for the program. “Social and political commentators, as well as elected officials including the president, are attributing violent crime to many factors including inadequate gun control laws, a culture of violence and a recreational culture of violence.”

Myers did not respond to requests for comment.

The idea that video games bear some responsibility for teen angst, aggressiveness, and violence was recently endorsed by National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre, who pushed for restrictions on the sale of such games after it was revealed that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza spent hours playing “Call of Duty.”

Democratic West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced legislation last month to direct the National Academy of Sciences to study violent video games.

But previous studies have failed to demonstrate any link between violence and video games. This lack of evidence led the Supreme Court to strike down California’s ban on violent video games in 2011.

“These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason,” wrote Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in his majority opinion. “They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively.”

But any parents who think video games — or any other form of electronic entertainment — are corrupting their children can publicly rid themselves of the offending items on January 12, when Southington initiates its video game incineration program.

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