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).