In the wake of December's schoolhouse massacre, which left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, violent games have been a talking point for politicians across the country.
The talk turned to action in January, when president Barack Obama ordered more research to be done to investigate the relationship between video games and real-world violence. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), supports this plan, which allocated $10 million for the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health to conduct its studies.
Speaking during a recent Google Hangout, Murphy responded to GameSpot's question regarding why he chose to single out video games during a speech in January and what message he has for the video game industry at large.
"Obviously, this is a very sensitive issue in Connecticut. Newtown is still in crisis," Murphy said. "Not enough healing going on there in the wake of the murder of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School. And you know, what we know are the facts about that crime. What we know is that this young man, deeply mentally ill walking the school with an assault weapon armed with 30-round magazines. What we know is that he was very, very severely mentally ill; that his mother had been trying to get him help for years. And what we also know, is that he spent a lot of time playing violent video games."
The Sandy Hook shooter was reportedly a "deranged gamer" who sought out the elementary school so as to "outscore" past mass murderers. It was also reported that he killed himself during the attack so that he would not give away these "points."
Murphy said the Sandy Hook shooter's violent outburst cannot be pinned on any one element, but claimed that a trend does exist that shows past mass shooters had "exposure to these video games."
"What we admittedly don't have…is any peer-reviewed studies or research that tell us that there is a definitive link between exposure to violent video games and violence."
"Now, nobody can sit here for certain and say that without any one of those things, without the powerful weapons, without the mental illness, without the exposure to video games, this wouldn't have happened. We can't put ourselves in his mind," Murphy said. "But we do see a trend where some of these shooters do have exposure to these video games."
Murphy acknowledged that legitimate studies do not exist that prove a correlation between violent games and violent behavior, which is one of the reasons why he has supported the ongoing initiative from Obama and vice president Joe Biden.
"What we admittedly don't have…is any peer-reviewed studies or research that tell us that there is a definitive link between exposure to violent video games and violence," Murphy said. "What researchers will tell you, is that if you already have a severe mental illness, and a predilection to violence, perhaps the video game exposure can put you over the edge. But in and of itself, there is no research showing that there's a link."
"It's one of the reasons why I've supported president Obama and vice president Biden in their efforts to have the CDC and the NIH do more research on the root causes of gun violence; one of the things they are going to do research on now is that link between exposure to violent video games and to violent episodes because I admit that we don't have the research there to back up what we see anecdotally in the case of Adam Lanza, for instance."
"And before we pass any legislation, which would limit the exposure that people have to these types of video games, I think it's important that we have the research and the data and that's what we're trying to do right now."
Speaking during Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) press conference in January introducing a bill that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity gun magazines, Murphy said the Sandy Hook massacre may not have occurred if games did not glorify guns and violence.
"I think there's a question as to whether he would have driven in his mother's car in the first place if he didn't have access to a weapon that he saw in video games that gave him a false sense of courage about what he could do that day," Murphy said at the time.
Biden met with game industry leaders earlier this year to discuss the link between violent video games and gun violence as part of a wider task force into gun control measures. It is unclear what was discussed.
Biden recently made headlines for saying there would be no legal problem with taxing violent games, despite the landmark 2011 decision from the Supreme Court that ruled games are protected free speech under the First Amendment.