Over the past couple of months, conservatives have been fiercely arguing against gun control, essentially making their case with five points that are straightforward and consistent with conservative principles. But in a strange twist, some of those same pundits have tried to shift the target from guns to violent movies and video games — in the process, undermining their arguments against gun control.
It’s ironic, it’s hypocritical, and it’s maddeningly stupid. So we’ll start from the top:
Essentially, conservatives defend the right to bear arms because 1) It is soundly protected by the Constitution; 2) Rates of violent crime in America have declined dramatically — if sporadically — since before the American Revolution, and continue to today; 3) The link between “assault rifles” and murder is minimal (2.6 percent of all murders), and what constitutes an “assault rifle” is arbitrary; 4) The vast majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens; and 5) The answer to bureaucrats ignoring laws and criminals breaking laws is not simply more laws. (RELATED: Biden says government can’t prosecute most people who lie on firearms forms)
These five points are straightforward; and these five points are consistent with American conservatism. (BEDFORD: The hidden message in Obama’s gun decree)
But some of the conservatives who made their Second Amendment case so eloquently then ignore their argument, point by point, so they can blame violent movies and video games. And here’s why that’s stupid (and undermining their case against gun control):
1) To save the Second Amendment, some seem willing to sacrifice the First: “Call of Duty” isn’t quite high political discourse, but that doesn’t mean we can censor it just because we don’t like it. And this isn’t just a theory: The Supreme Court agrees, ruling in 2010 that, “Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. … And ‘the basic principles of freedom of speech … do not vary’ with a new and different communication medium.”
Some have made a more intelligent (and conservative) case that violent entertainment should be socially stigmatized (like racism), but we don’t think that is necessary for a number of the following reasons.
2) Rates of violent crime in the United States have been in decline for hundreds of years. And more to the point, rates of violent crime have been declining steadily since the 1990s — just as the number, variety and apparent realism of violent movies and video games exploded. The math doesn’t check out.
Desires for a return to a time before violent video games, we think, fit into a broader theme on the right: harping incessantly about the coarseness of modern culture. But we would challenge those pundits to explain how our culture is coarser than it was in the past. And before any of those pundits talk to us about Mozart v. Snoop Dogg, or “Downton Abbey” v. “The O.C.,” just shut up and make a real comparison for once.
Like, how about Washington, D.C.? Fifty years ago it was near-vacant and overrun with violence and poverty. Back then, folks blamed comic books. Even 100 years before that — in the “good old days” — the city was a stinking swamp, with the areas in front of the White House particularly deadly. Back then, who did people blame — cabarets?
3) Third, we had better not catch anyone who has complained about the weak statistical connection between “assault weapons” and gun violence turning around and suggesting that the connection between violent video games and murder is somehow sounder. Seriously? We thought it was “Guns don’t kill people — people kill people;” not “Guns don’t kill people, video games kill people.” (RELATED: Do video games cause mass shootings? Experts weigh in)
And from those who rightly point out that the definition of “assault weapon” is arbitrary at best, we’d like to hear a definition of “violent” video games. Would the game that pits the player against the Nazis count as a bad influence? Or is it only the games that allow the player to kill civilians? And of those games, only the ones that are first-person shooters? The clowns on Capitol Hill would have a blast legislating that one (before the Supreme Court slaps it down).
4) Also, how about all the law-abiding gamers and movie-goers? We wonder if anyone linking violent movies and video games with violent acts ever stopped to wonder just how many gamers are out there. In 2012, there were an estimated 211.5 million gamers in the United States — as much as three times the estimated 70-80 million lawful American gun owners. That’s a lot of people. We dare say that if either gun ownership or gaming leads to killing children, America is in a heap of trouble. And if seeing violent movies leads to violence, we’ll probably be dead before this goes to print.
Besides, in the age of the Internet, guess who would keep on playing violent video games and watching violent movies regardless of any ban? Our guess: The hardcore gamers the pundits are so afraid of.
5) Finally, creating new laws because old ones were broken or ignored is insane. We guess the thinking goes like this: We could have stopped Adam Lanza from committing the Newtown massacre if we could have added “possession of violent video games” to murder, assault with a deadly weapon, committing a felony with a firearm, possession of a stolen gun, bringing a gun into a gun-free zone, criminal trespass, car theft and the host of other crimes he committed. What people should really be asking themselves is, “what law is constitutional and would have prevented this attack?”
Don’t get us wrong, here: There are real cultural battles to fight, and America is demonstrably threatened by things like the decline of the family. So why waste energy on unpopular, unproven, and intellectually dishonest debates?
Here’s something that conservatives understand — and would do well to remember: Daily chaos and tragedy cannot be transcended by human intellect and government power. A sad fact is that evil — and massacres — are older than guns and, we dare say, older than violent movies and video games.
And here’s another sad fact: No amount of censorship will ever snuff evil out. In defense of the Second Amendment, a good deal of conservatives are making sound points that are straightforward and consistent with conservative principles. Now let’s introduce a little common sense into the First Amendment debate.