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Are Violent Video Games Behind Mass Shootings? UConn Researcher Refutes Trump Assertion

Feb 26, 2018

In the wake of the school shooting earlier this month in Florida, many are trying to make sense of the tragedy.

Last week, President Donald Trump suggested that violent video games and movies are the real culprit. But does the research back up the president's theory?

It's a question that's been around since the Columbine Shooting almost two decades ago -- Does playing violent video games produce mass shooters in real life?

Kirstie Farrar is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Connecticut. She is also a researcher at UConn’s Video Games and Media Effects Lab. She said studies since Columbine have been pretty conclusive.

“Most media effects researchers do agree that there is a small, but consistent correlation between all types of media violence exposure and aggression,” said Farrar.

Aggression, yes, but not the type of profound violence associated with mass shootings. Farrar said public acts of violence like Parkland are extremely rare. She said media violence alone will not increase aggression to the point of being a public threat.

She points to a 2012 study that found that exposure to violent media was just one risk factor for physical aggression.

“It tends to take a lot of risk factors combined,” said Farrar. “It's not to say that media violence is not potentially a culprit here, but by itself, it's not going to be enough.”

It’s clear a link between aggression and violent media like video games exists. One study conducted by Farrar at the UConn’s Video Games and Media Effects Lab found that the more college students played violent shooter video games, the more behavioral aggression they reported.

Farrar's own research reveals another interest finding. The more college students played violent shooter video games with gun controllers, the less in favor they were of gun control policies, and the more they felt that guns make people safe.

Still, Farrar calls President Trump's assertion that violent video games and movies are to blame for the mass shootings in this country "absurd" and "a red herring.”.