A former FBI profiler on Sunday warned that some gun advocates were making a mistake by rushing to blame the December mass shooting of 20 children in Connecticut on violent video games.
Following a CBS News report that investigators had found a “trove” of video games in the home of Newtown shooter Adam Lanza, conservatives like Glenn Beck jumped to the conclusion that the games had been a “gateway drug” to the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
But during a panel discussion on Sunday, former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole said evidence did not support that theory.
“It’s my experience that video games do not cause violence,” O’Toole told CBS News. “However, it is one of the risk variables when we do a threat assessment for the risk to act out violently.”
“It’s important that I point out that as a threat assessment and as a former FBI profiler, we don’t see these as the cause violence,” she added. “We see them as sources of fueling ideation that’s already there.”
Texas A&M International University psychology professor Christopher Ferguson pointed out that youth violence had recently declined to the lowest level in 40 years at a time when video games had become more violent.
“I think we have to put this discussion, to some extent, in historical perspective,” Ferguson explained. “And when new media come out that they tend to go through a period of what we call moral panic, in which they are blamed for all manner of societal ills. And probably the best example of this was from the 1950s, when we had Congress and psychiatrists who were claiming that comic books were responsible for not only juvenile delinquency, but homosexuality.”
“We’re in a mode of worry about — or panicking about this type of media. We may do some putting the cart before the horse, and we may see some people sort of starting with a conclusion and trying to assemble data in a very selective way to try to support that conclusion.”
A 2002 study published by the U.S. Secret Service found that only 12 percent of perpetrators of school violence had an interest in violent video games. But 37 percent “exhibited an interest in violence in their own writings, such as poems, essays or journal entries.”
Watch this video from CBS’ Face the Nation, broadcast Feb. 24, 2013.