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President Barack Obama held a press conference today on gun violence and how his administration plans to fight it.
One of his 23 executive orders, which he signed today, direct the Center for Disease Control to study the causes of violent behavior. That includes looking into violent media like movies, television, and video games.
“We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.” Obama said. “Congress should fund research into the effects violent video games have on young minds.”
The specific order reads as follows: “Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.”
These executive orders, where the president uses his power to enforce laws and to make policy changes, come from a national desire to combat gun violence after a string of mass murders, like the one at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
“As important as these steps are, they are in no way a substitute for action from Congress,” Obama said.
The president wants Congress to allocate $10 million toward the study of violent media.
The president then called on the U.S. representative bodies to pass a bill that would require universal background checks on firearm purchases, a limit on assault weapons, and a 10-round maximum on ammo magazines.
Last week, Vice President Joe Biden met with executives, researchers, and representatives from the gaming industry as part of a series of summits to figure out solutions to gun violence. At that meeting, Biden told Electronic Art’s chief executive officer John Riccitiello that he has made no judgment about video games and that the president just wanted to get all of the research.
Obama’s press conference focused primarily on gun control. The president made no move to ban, censor, or limit video games in any way, although he did not mention whether he would take the Entertainment Software Association’s advice and simultaneously research the benefits of games while looking for their negative effects.
In June 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that video games are protected speech. This would make any legislation that would limit games unconstitutional. This puts the burden of proof on those who claim games cause violent or criminal outbursts.
Also in June 2011, Obama penned an opinion piece for People Magazine in which he said: “Every father can encourage his child to turn off the video games and pick up a book; to study hard and stay in school.”
Many gamers took that as a bit of an insult, but in February, the White House began studying the positive effects of video games. The administration hired Dr. Constance Steinkuehler, a video game researcher, to shape its policy on games that improve health, education, civic engagement, and the environment.