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Public Statements

Violent Media Role in Mass Shootings

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. WOLF. Today, I rise as the father of five and the grandfather of 16--many of whom are of the age to play video games--to express my deep concerns about the lack of discussion on mental health issues and violent media and the role they play in mass shootings.

As we continue to seek ways to end mass violence, in addition to gun safety, we must address the impacts of mental illness and, of equal importance, violent video games, movies, and TV.

I have supported legislation that would keep guns from getting into the wrong hands. I voted for the Brady Bill in 1993, safety lock requirements, and provisions that help police conduct effective background checks. My father was a Philadelphia policeman.

As chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, I have increased funding for the national background check system to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill and violent criminals. In fact, my bill provided more than double the funding requested by both the President's and the Senate's budget plan.

In January, I wrote to ask Attorney General Holder to use existing funds to immediately improve the Nation's background check system. In addition, I asked the Obama administration to create a national center for campus public safety, which has strong support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and the Virginia Tech Family Outreach Foundation, a group of families and victims of the shooting at Virginia Tech. In fact, the idea for my bill to create the national center for campus public safety came from the Virginia Tech families and lead cosponsor, Congressman Bobby Scott from the State of Virginia. I'm expecting a response from the Justice Department soon. The shooter in the Virginia Tech massacre lived in my congressional district, and a number of the victims were from my district. I have met with their families, and I understand they are hurting.

Dealing with mental illness has to be part of the solution. I have long advocated for measures that prevent health insurers from placing discriminatory restrictions on mental health and addiction treatments. I continue to remain hopeful that the nearly 20 million Americans who suffer from mental illness receive the treatment they need.

Mr. Speaker, though, I was disappointed that President Obama did not seize the opportunity to address, in depth, the role of mental health and media violence as factors of mass violence during his State of the Union address. To only focus on guns, on just one piece of a very large and complicated puzzle, is simply irresponsible.

The President said that the victims of mass shootings, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the college students at Virginia Tech, the children at Sandy Hook, the high school students at Columbine, and the movie-goers in Aurora, all deserve a vote for gun control proposals. How can he, in good conscience, call for that but not acknowledge the fact that each one of these shooters in these events was mentally disturbed? How could he not acknowledge the role that violent media played in some of their lives?

The President is failing the American people and the families of the victims by remaining frustratingly silent on these crucial issues and ignoring the other central factors related to mass violence of this kind.

As I mentioned, in a number of tragic shootings, there has been a pattern of the shooters playing or even imitating violent video games.

Let's begin with Anders Breivik, the Norwegian who shot 69 people at a youth camp in 2011. Forbes Magazine reported that Anders used the video game "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2'' as a simulator to help him practice shooting people. Anders said:

I just bought "Modern Warfare 2,'' the game. It is probably the best military simulator out there, and it's one of the hottest games this year.

He goes on to say:

I see "Modern Warfare 2'' more as a part of my training-simulation than anything else. You can more or less completely simulate actual operations.

And who can forget that day at Columbine High School when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 13 classmates and wounded 23 others before turning the guns on themselves? The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks Internet hate groups, found in its archives a copy of Harris' Web site with a version of the first-person shooter video game ``Doom'' that he had customized. In Harris' version, there are two shooters, each with extra weapons and unlimited ammunition, and the other people in the game cannot fight back.

For a class project, Harris and Klebold made a videotape that was similar to their customized version of ``Doom.'' In the video, Harris and Klebold dress in trench coats, carry guns, and kill school athletes. They acted out their videotape performance in real life less than a year later.

An investigator at the Wiesenthal Center said Harris and Klebold were ``playing out their game in God mode.''

In another videotape, Harris referred to a sawed-off shotgun as ``Arlene,'' a favorite character in the ``Doom'' video game. Harris said, "It's gonna be like (expletive) Doom.''

And now we have a report this month from the Hartford Courant that says that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza may have been imitating violent video games as well. The Courant reports:

During a search of the Lanza home after the deadly school shootings, police found thousands of dollars' worth of graphically violent video games.

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