In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, the gun safety debate has been pulled back out into the open. As the debate continues, people are pushing for a way to prevent violence and allow for children to be able to go to school and feel safe, which, honestly, is not a lot to ask for. On Thursday, Feb. 22, President Donald Trump spoke about the issue with state lawmakers and decided to focus on violent video games and movies, implying that there's a connection between the two and there needs to be some sort of fix, like, say, a rating system for violent content. You know, like we already have. So people were very confused — and these tweets about Donald Trump and movie ratings show that no one has any idea what the president is talking about.
During the meeting, Trump decided to give his take on what he believes is the real issue: violent forms of entertainment influencing our children.
Trump started out his monologue by explaining that "bad things" are happening to "young minds," according to CNN's footage of the meeting. He then quickly pivoted to video games claiming that he hears people saying that the "level of violence" in video games is really influencing the way young people think. Then he veered to movies, where things get interesting. Trump said,
A lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds. Their minds are being formed, and we have to do something about maybe what they are seeing and how they are seeing it. And also video games. I am hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people's thoughts. Then you go the further step and that's the movies. You see these movies, they’re so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved. And maybe they have to put a rating system for that. You get into a whole very complicated, very big deal but the fact is that you are having movies come out that are so violent with the killing and everything else that maybe that's another thing we’re going to have to discuss.
On the surface, it appears that Trump is suggesting a rating system for movies... which, uh, we already have.
There is a rating system in place by The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) that rates films on sexual and violent content. We've all seen them before: G (General Audience), PG (Parental Guidance), PG-13 ( Parent's Strongly Cautioned), R (Restricted), and NC-17 (No One 17 and Under Admitted). Each rating comes with their own set content descriptions that serve as a warning: for instance, PG-13 states that, "Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers." So you know that you shouldn't take a 10-year-old to go see the film.
So, Twitter was very very confused at Trump's claim.
Although it's extremely confusing, I'm going to play devil's advocate and say that what Trump really meant is that the rating system just needs an overhaul, and it's not just some new brilliant genius idea he came up with. Even with that, there is still an issue with Trump insinuating that violent entertainment seeps into kids' minds and turns them into violent attackers who would then carry out something like the Parkland shooting.
The idea that video games and violent movies cause school shootings is a pretty old excuse that's seriously debatable.
Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson, a professor of Psychology at Stetson University who has "studied violent video games for almost 15 years," said that the idea is bogus said in an article for website The Conversation. "There is no evidence to support these claims that violent media and real-world violence are connected," he wrote.
A 2017 public education statement published by The Amplifier, the magazine of the Media Psychology and Technology division of the American Psychological Association, also said that claims of a link were "problematic." It suggested "reporters and policymakers cease linking mass shootings to violent media, given lack of evidence for a link."
America is not the only country that has violent video games, but it is the only country with such high rates of gun deaths and mass shootings, reports Forbes. A recent survey released by CNN, showed that America owns almost half of the 650 million civilian-owned guns worldwide while the rest are scattered throughout the 194 countries that comprise the rest of the world. That study also showed that although U.S. only accounts for 5% of the world's population, it holds 31% of global mass shooters. Between 1966 and 2012, the U.S. had 90 mass shootings while other countries with mass shootings, such as the Philippines and Russia, had only 18 and 15 mass shootings respectively over the course of that time period.
After Trump's comments on Feb. 22, CNN asked Chris Grady, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School his thoughts on Trump's comments. He said,
That’s just a really pathetic excuse on behalf of the president. I grew up playing video games — you know, Call of Duty, all those kind of first-person shooter games — and I would never, ever dream of taking the lives of any of my peers. So it’s just, it’s pathetic.
In the wake of a shooting such as Parkland, where the suspect is a young person, it's not uncommon that politicians put the blame on video games and not gun laws. However, by Trump using violent media as an excuse for a school shooting he is taking away from the issue that people are actually talking about: gun reform.