Rhode Island State Rep Wants To Tax Mature Video Games After Parkland Shooting

Source: Jamakassi via Unsplash

Source: Jamakassi via Unsplash

After the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, NRA-backed politicians are coming out swinging at violent video games. Even though years of research have debunked earlier attempts to scapegoat video games as the cause for epidemic of gun violence in the U.S., politicians are trying once more.

Rolling Stone reports that State Representative Roberto (Bobby) Nardolillo III (R-RI) introduced legislation, proposing a 10% tax increase to video games that are rated Mature higher. Nardolillo (almost typed Nard-dog *ahem* The Office reference) is financially backed by the National Rifle Association.

Nardolillo says the revenue collected from taxing violent video games will "increase mental health and counseling resources in schools." In 2016, Nadolillo proposed cutting Rhode Island sales tax, but now wants to impose a 10% tax on violent video games to fund mental health when there's 19.6% of funds available for mental health care. So cutting sales tax just to create another tax in the state of Rhode Island just doesn't make sense. But it does if the intent is to place blame on video games while not coming up with valid solutions to America's normalization of gun violence and mass shootings.

This type of legislative scapegoating isn't new. Other politicians have both proposed taxing video games and are financially backed by the NRA. The NRA is the most powerful lobby in Washington D.C. and their influence is not confined to political party. Diane Franklin (R-MO),  William Fourkiller (D-OK) and Debralee Hovey (former R-CT) have all proposed taxing video games in the past. They are financially endorsed by the NRA.

Source: Smitt/Thinkstock via Slate

Source: Smitt/Thinkstock via Slate

Politicians who continue the "violent video games are to blame" rhetoric are also backed by the NRA. Meaning, anything to they can do to deflect citizens from even considering any type of gun legislation or reform, they will do. During an interview with Leland Conway, Governor Matt Bevin (R-KY) said that video games "celebrated" a "culture of death". and White House 45 are also endorsed by the NRA. Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) also took a shot at video games while speaking live on NPR. Mast is another politician who took NRA money.

When you look at Call of Duty, when you look at movies like John Wick, the societal impacts of people being desensitized to killing in ways different than how somebody on the battlefield was desensitized is troubling
— National Public Radio’s ‘Morning Edition

Days later, Mast broke from earlier rhetoric, saying said  “I cannot support the primary weapon I used to defend our people being used to kill children I swore to defend.” He also recognized that he was at risk of the NRA asking for their money back saying he doesn't "fear becoming a political casualty."

It's important to note that studies have already debunked the myth of video games being the cause of violence among youth in the U.S. In 2004, the United States Secret Service along with the Department of Education issued "THE FINAL REPORT AND FINDINGS OF THE SAFE SCHOOL INITIATIVE: IMPLICATIONS FOR THE PREVENTION OF SCHOOL ATTACKS IN THE UNITED STATES":

Over half of the attackers demonstrated some interest in violence, through movies,
video games, books, and other media (59 percent, n=24). However, there was no
one common type of interest in violence indicated. Instead, the attackers’ interest in
violent themes took various forms.

• Approximately one-quarter of the attackers had exhibited an interest in violent
movies (27 percent, n=11).
• Approximately one-quarter of the attackers had exhibited an interest in violent
books (24 percent, n=10).
• One-eighth of the attackers exhibited an interest in violent video games (12
percent, n=5).
• The largest group of attackers exhibited an interest in violence in their own
writings, such as poems, essays, or journal entries (37 percent, n=15).
— The Safe Schools Initiative Final Report

It's important for U.S. citizens to pay attention to which organizations and corporations financially back which politicians and what their interests are. Beware of rhetoric and scapegoating. Beware of politicians trying to make gun violence a partisan blame game as they scapegoat video games, negating all of the evidence that tells us that video games are not the culprit. More importantly, get involved in your local government.