Josh Sugarman says these games have the potential to “lure” more people into purchasing firearms. Does Mr. Sugarman have any evidence whatsoever that this is true? If it is, so what?
There has never, not once, been a conclusive, causative link between firearm ownership and violent activity. Some states with high rates of gun ownership and relaxed gun laws actually have lower violence rates than states with low ownership and more restrictions. Some states with high gun ownership have higher rates of violence. So the reality seems to be that gun ownership and gun laws have little effect on levels of violence. Both a 2013 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a more recent study by the Rand Corporation determined that there was no conclusive evidence that guns laws did, or did not, work. Considering the promises made for gun laws, it would seem they are a failure.
Arguably, these video games are likely to have far less effect on gun ownership than the campaign and election of Barack Obama as President of the United States. From the time the former President secured the Democratic Party nomination in 2008 to roughly 2013, America went on one of the largest gun-buying sprees in the nation’s history. While many of these sales were undoubtably current gun owners adding to their collection, there were also many first-time gun purchasers. Yet, in 2014, the firearm-related homicide rate fell to a level not seen since the late 1950s.
As to the threat posed by these video simulations, it might surprise Mr. Brodsky and Mr. Sugarman to learn that it’s actually fairly easy to rent a real machine gun in many parts of the U.S. Who needs a video game? Of course, an hour with a real machine gun can cost much more than the simulator, due to the rate at which a machine gun goes through expensive ammunition.
It might also surprise Mr. Brodsky and Mr. Sugarman to learn that the 2015 General Social Survey (GSS) results are widely viewed as an undercount of the percentage of households with guns.
It is well-established that many gun owners either lie or refuse to respond to questions about ownership, even during in-person surveys such as those included in the GSS. Estimates of the percentage of American households with guns run as high as 42% according to a more recent study by Pew Research. This would indicate that there are as many as 12 million more households with guns than there were in the 1980s.
One of the factors that is often overlooked by groups such as the Violence Policy Center is that the drop in the percentage of households with guns is actually more closely linked to a decline in the number of hunters. Increasing costs of leases and decreasing availability of hunting grounds have thinned the ranks of American hunters.
On the other hand, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people that own a firearm for self-defense. The number of active concealed carry licenses has risen to a record 17.25 million.
In addition, since 2000, thirteen more states have joined Vermont and eliminated the requirement that a person obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm, so even the count of active permits doesn’t yield a reliable number of gun owners.
This has not only changed the face of gun ownership, it has transformed the gun market. The top-selling handguns are now all semi-automatic pistols, most with high-capacity magazines or compact models capable of being carried in a pocket. Most of the top-selling rifles are variants of the AR-15.
In contrast to dire predictions about simulators, there has never been any conclusive evidence that video games, including graphic first-person shooters, lead to more violence. In fact, the only multi-fatality shooting that was even related to video games occurred during a tournament for a football video game.
The debate over guns will never be resolved by living in an echo chamber. Common ground has become no man’s land as the rhetoric has ramped up on both sides. The creation of fantasy threats does nothing at all to rectify the current state of the discussion.