Why Obama Gives Video Game Violence a Pass
For the Left, the entertainment industry is sacrosanct.
Using children whose letters pleading for gun control were released to the Associated Press as props for his political theater, President Obama unveiled a panoply of sweeping proposals aimed at ostensibly curbing gun violence. Included in those proposals were 23 executive orders that run the gamut from unnecessary, in that they don’t really require an executive order to carry out, to those that come perilously close to violating privacy and infringing on states’ rights. Bowing to constitutional reality, the president further noted that congressional approval is required for the more restrictive measures. "To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act,“ Obama said. "And Congress must act soon.” Thus, the president has focused on most every factor related to lawful gun use. Conspicuously absent from the conversation are violent video games and other aspects of the sacrosanct entertainment industry.
The new measures requiring congressional approval, including a new and tougher assault weapons ban, a 10-bullet magazine limit, a ban on private possession of armor-piercing bullets, and criminal background checks that would encompass nearly all guns sales throughout the country, have been met with a great deal of skepticism regarding their odds of getting through a divided Congress, as well as outright criticism. “Nothing the president is proposing would have stopped the massacre at Sandy Hook,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “President Obama is targeting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens instead of seriously addressing the real underlying causes of such violence." "Instead of a thoughtful, open and deliberate conversation, President Obama is attempting to institute new restrictions on a fundamental constitutional right,” said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), who further predicted the initiative would elicit "drawn-out court battles.“ "Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected, and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy” offered the NRA.
On the other side, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), in typical fashion, completely missed the point. “[The president] was exactly right when he said ‘weapons designed for the theater of war have no place’ in our society. I couldn’t agree more. These weapons have one purpose: to kill the most people in the shortest amount of time possible,” she said. That would be the same Diane Feinstein who was considering a law creating a gun buy-back program from legal gun owners – that could be made compulsory – as recently as last December. She was joined by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who, prior to ramming the toughest gun law in the nation through the state legislature, also suggested that “confiscation could be an option.” It is precisely that totalitarian impulse that drives Americans to want “weapons designed for war.”
Thus, it is entirely unsurprising that while the American left and their media enablers envision a “safer” world with less guns, their ham-fisted efforts are producing exactly the opposite of what they intend. Sales were “through the roof” at a gun show in Idaho last Saturday. "These guns and ammo are going out the door in arm loads. Some people can hardly walk they’ve got so much stuff,“ said organizer Paul Snider. In South Dakota, Michael Mooney, owner of Southern Hills Tactical, reports that he has sold 85 assault weapons in three days. "Never seen sales like this at all,” he said. In Kentucky, guns are "flying off store shelves,“ and several gun shop owners are reporting "lines out the door.”
In Virginia, people showed up more than two hours before a gun show opened, and lines stretched hundreds of yards throughout the parking lot. “This is just a perfect example and sign that when the government starts trying to legislate new gun laws it’s going to create panic,” says Mark Lilly, who owns a small market across the street from the event. An annual gun show in Las Vegas has issued credentials to nearly 60,000 people, who began showing up on Tuesday.
The FBI was also inundated. They revealed that the number of background checks conducted through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) set a record in December, with nearly 2.8 million in sales transfers reported, up from the previous record number of 1.9 million sales recorded in December 2011. Checks for all of 2012 were record-setting as well, totaling 19.6 million, a number representing a 19 percent increase over 2011. These numbers only reflect checks of sales from commercial vendors with a federal license. They do not cover activity between private parties, nor do they reflect the number of actual guns sold, as someone who passes the FBI check can buy multiple weapons.
And in yet another unintended consequence, the Nation Rifle Association (NRA) has reported an increase in membership totaling 250,000 in the month since the tragedy in Newtown. Andrew Arulanandam, the NRA’s public affairs director minced no words explaining the the surge. “I would say that every time President Obama opens his mouth and Sen. Feinstein opens her mouth, and they talk about gun bans and restricting the rights of law abiding Americans, people pay attention to that and sign up,” he contended.
The organization also blistered the president in a new 35-second video on its website, describing him as an “elitist hypocrite” whose own children are protected at school, even as he has expressed skepticism about providing armed security in all schools. "Are the president’s kids more important than yours?“ the narrator asks. "Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”
For those who might take issue with that description of the president, it is useful to remember his own description of “bitter” small-town Americans in places like Pennsylvania, who “cling to guns or religion.” Obama believed job losses were the primary driver of their bitterness. After four years of one of the weakest recoveries in history, the president has done next to nothing to alleviate that bitterness, even as he has apparently driven the number of those who wish to join the ranks of gun “clingers” to record levels.
Obama has apparently reinvigorated federalist impulses as well. Officials in Oregon and Texas have indicated that they will not enforce any new restrictions they consider unconstitutional. "We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crimes, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws,“ wrote Oregon sheriff Tim Mueller in a letter to Vice President Joe Biden. In Texas, Republican state Rep. Steve Toth will introduce legislation making it illegal to enforce restrictions on semi-automatic firearms or magazine sizes, even as he warned that federal officials attempting to do so would be subject to felony charges.
As for the idea that the president’s proposals will curb gun violence, even the leftist New York Times was forced to acknowledge reality. "A new federal assault weapons ban and background checks of all gun buyers … might have done little to prevent the massacre in Newtown, Conn., last month. The semiautomatic rifle that Adam Lanza used to shoot 20 schoolchildren and 6 adults complied with Connecticut’s assault weapons ban, the police said, and he did not buy the gun himself,” the paper states. As for limiting the number of bullets in a magazine, Manhattan lawyer and gun-rights advocate Jerold E. Levine reveals the folly of believing that represents any sort of solution. “A 30-round magazine is no more dangerous than two 15-round magazines, or more dangerous than three 10-round magazines, or more dangerous than six 5-round magazines,” he said. "It takes only two seconds to change the magazine in a semiautomatic gun.“
Conspicuously missing from the discussion to curb violence in America are video games and movies. Despite being summoned to meet with Joe Biden’s task force last week, during which the Vice President wondered if video games contributed to a "coarsening of our culture,” the administration was apparently satisfied with a statement released by the Entertainment Software Association contending that “independent, scientific research conducted to date has found no causal connection between video games and real-life violence.” During that meeting, industry officials expressed fear they might be scapegoated – exactly like the administration is attempting to do with guns – for the carnage in Newtown.
Biden also met with Hollywood and TV industry association executives, including MPAA chairman and former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith, and National Cable and Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell. They too emerged "unscathed,“ with Dodd promising he would be "vehemently” against any government restrictions on violence in movies.
In his Jan. 16 address, Obama weakly called for Congress to pass funding for more studies on video game violence, but it is of course nothing compared to the president’s demonization of firearms. Such reticence on the part of the administration to suggest restrictions on the First Amendment rights of video game manufacturers and Hollywood, even as law-abiding gun owners’ Second Amendment rights remain a target, reeks of a political double-standard. Obama and the Left have fixated on the type of guns used in recent mass shootings, but there has been almost a complete indifference to the shooters’ universal obsession with video games, including Cho Seung-Hui, Jared Loughner, James Holmes and now Adam Lanza. One may be forgiven for wondering where the current focus would be if Hollywood and video game execs were bedrock conservatives. Obama contended that “if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.” Since video games and Hollywood have been excluded from such obligations, one is left to assume the president believes not a single life has been endangered by the steady stream of on-screen and video game violence produced by those he wishes to politically ingratiate himself with.
Until the president is willing to confront members of his own political constituency who contribute as much – if not more – to the coarsening of the culture and subsequent violence this administration ostensibly ignores, Obama’s efforts should be recognized for what they really are: the tiresomely familiar exploitation of a crisis in order foist another element of the progressive agenda on the American public while it remains emotionally vulnerable. Nothing more, nothing less.
Arnold Ahlert is a columnist for FrontPage Magazine.