Violent Video Games as Scapegoat After School Shootings in the United States

Violent Video Games as Scapegoat After School Shootings in the United States

Allen Copenhaver (Lindsey Wilson College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0113-9.ch014

Abstract

The United States has a well-documented history of violence. School shootings are a contemporary social problem which raise much concern, as children and young adults are killed on school grounds. After such tragic events there is public debate as to what causes such horrible events to occur. When looking for a source of such shootings, violent video games are often named as a source of such unconscionable violence. However, it is argued here that blaming violent video games constitutes a moral panic when violent video games are unfairly scapegoated as the source of school shootings. This chapter also points to other sources of violence which may be identified as potential causes of school shootings once the scapegoating of violent video games is acknowledged.
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School Shooting Violence In America: Contextualizing The Problem

School shootings are a contemporary problem in the United States. According to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security: Naval Postgraduate School (2019a) there were 97 school shooting incidents in 2018 (the highest number recorded since 1970) and as of March 2019, 17 have taken place so far this year. According to the same source, 56 victims were killed in school shooting incidents in 2018 (the highest number recorded since 1970) and three victims have been killed in school shooting incidents so far in 2019 (Center for Homeland Defense and Security: Naval Postgraduate School, 2019b). School shootings represent a particular form of mass shooting violence, which is defined by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) as the shooting and killing of more than four people, “within one event, and in one or more locations in close proximity” (Office for Victims of Crime, 2019).

For purposes of contextualizing the “school shooting” problem, some of the differences between a mass shooting, an active shooter, and a school shooter must be discussed. This is because, as the Office for Victims of Crime (2019) points out, how one counts such incidents of school shooting violence determines how one understands the extent of the problem. When referring to mass shootings, there have been 87 incidents from 1990-2016 in which a shooting took place in a public place, where the motive was indiscriminate killings. This also includes incidents in which a lone shooter killed at least three people (not counting the life of the shooter if they committed suicide) (Mother Jones, 2019; Office for Victims of Crime, 2019).1 Accurately defining what is meant by “school shooting” is difficult because the federal government does provide a definition of school shooting; an active shooter is arguably the closest definition to what is conceptually meant by what occurs when a school shooting actually takes place (see Fattal, 2018; Melgar, 2019; Nichols, 2018).

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