2989628380My breathing is light as I pursue my target down a dark hallway. He has not seen me yet; I hope he never will. I sneak up behind him and aim my rifle at his head. I fire, and a message appears before me. “75 assault rifle kills,” it says, “+2000” points. I am playing my favorite sci-fi shooter video game to unwind after a hard day of studying for final exams. I have played this game a thousand times before and never felt a twinge of regret for the virtual monsters I have killed in the name of saving the galaxy. Yet today is not an ordinary day. Today is Dec. 16, two days after the massacre at Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.

I had no personal connection to that event and I do not believe playing violent video games leads to violent behavior. Yet in that moment, I had to put my game down. Trying to cope with a shooting by virtually shooting things just did not seem right. Video games should perhaps be a point of discussion in our national conversation about gun violence, but it cannot obstruct the real culprit: the failure of our existing gun laws.

The video game argument has always struck me as somewhat of a red herring. After all, people play the same games in Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, France and every other developed nation. They have far fewer gun deaths per year than we do. Indeed, according to sociologist Keiran Healy of Duke University, the United States is the clear outlier when it comes to gun violence. We have averaged around eight gun deaths per 100,000 people over the past half-century. Most other nations like us average fewer than two deaths. Why is this? These other nations, like the U.K. and France, have much stricter gun control laws. Americans are not more homicidal by nature. We simply do not have proper gun control. And to respectfully rebut those who disagree, I would simply quote the Second Amendment to the Constitution: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The words “well-regulated” and “militia” are there for all to see. The Founders, who could not even imagine the death unleashed by modern assault weapons, still decreed that militias should be regulated. Gun control is entirely constitutional and profoundly necessary.

To lay the blame for violence in America solely at the feet of video games is to deny the scope of the problem. To be fair, gun control is not the only answer, either. A comprehensive approach of stricter gun laws and mental health reform is needed. Nonetheless, I still recoiled from playing games in the aftermath of Newtown. I have played violent video games for years. I am in no way a violent person. Yet I have now come to believe that a discussion about video games should become a part of our response as a nation to the violence around us. Should games be censored? Of course not. But if gaming wants to grow and become respected as a true art form, perhaps it is time to break the violent mold. Just as literature and film tackle a wide variety of subjects, the gaming community should as well. After this unspeakable tragedy, this is the best time for gaming to begin that transition.

A week after Newtown, I began playing violent games again. I still enjoy them. Yet that event forced me to reevaluate one of my core beliefs. It forced me to look at a medium I love in a more critical light. If we force our elected officials to take the same look at gun control, I am hopeful that we will be able to prevent these acts of senseless violence. It will not be easy, but we must begin.

Evan Monod is a junior in the College. Spock Meets Barack appears every other Tuesday.

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