A modest proposal to reduce gun violence and mass murder

There seems to be a commonality among most if not all of the recent gun-using mass murderers: (1) serious, clinical mental illness, (2) recent gun purchases, and (3) intensive, violent video gaming.

This isn’t a perfect predictor, but I bet it’d be very close.  Sure, Nidal Malik Hasan might not fit the gamer mold, but Harris and Klibold, Holmes, and Lanza did.  Triangulating among these three criteria might give society a clearer picture of who is likely to commit these heinous crimes.

Therefore, I propose that the federal government mandate the registration of all existing and future video game devices and game modules, who bought them, who has access to them, what games were purchased, etc.  Bring ‘em in, get them registered.

New consoles must be manufactured with unique serial numbers, and every new copy of a game should have its own unique serial number embedded in the code. Console and games must be electronically enabled so only that game can be used on that console.  It’s probably a good idea that gamers should be allowed to purchase only one game per month.  Every vendor of video games shall collect and remit this information for each new device and game module sold, and be responsible for enabling the game to the console.

Purchasers and all potential users of the consoles and games shall be fingerprinted and ID’d, and their information kept on file with the federal government (I suggest the DOE do this, not HHS.)  This information shall be electronically accessible in instant database form to all federal, state, and local law enforcement as well as to participating physicians in ACA, Medicare, Medicaid, or any other federal or state health or welfare program.

This gaming database can be crosschecked with the existing FBI “NICS” database used in all retail gun purchases.  If — and likely when — a background check is mandated for all guns transactions, retail, wholesale, and private, this crosscheck will give a useful signal to potential mass murderers.

These programs are required but not sufficient.  The crucial third component should be mandatory reporting by all health providers, mental health counselors, and school officials of serious, dangerous, clinical psychiatric conditions which in their opinion makes their patients a danger to themselves or others.  It should be made law, too, that health providers ask all their patients if the play video games, how often, which titles, etc., and this information should be entered into the patient’s electronic health records and made accessible to all federal, state, and local law enforcement.

Cross-tabbing these three databases, I believe, will be a massive step towards reducing mass murder by crazy people with access to guns, and a quantum leap in keeping guns out of the hands of the wrong people.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.



Recommended by kbusch.


54 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. This is a proposal for Big Government

    Register video gamers! Track the mentally ill! That’ll protect the sacred rights of the non-gaming, mentally-stable gun owners!

    Or, since we’re prepared to take extreme measures like those, we could round up all those NGMS gun owners and ship them and their guns off to some place where they’d feel more comfortable. Some place where lots of people are already walking around armed and shooting stuff up. Then all us mentally-ill gamers* can go to school and work and the mall without having to worry that somebody’s going to start shooting.

    All-in-all, I think your post is a farcical attempt to misdirect the gun-control debate, and as such is disrespectful of those who are seriously attempting to find solutions.

    * I am not actually mentally ill or a video game player.

    • I'm absolutely serious

      The US military and many civilian law enforcement use video game technology for weapons training.

      It takes A LOT of training to use a semi-automatic rifle the way Holmes and Lanza did. It’s startling to see how effective violent video games are in providing this weapons training. And for certain people, the games desensitize them and turn killing into, well, a game.

      Professional military and law enforcement personnel do not train daily as much as Adam Lanza did.

      • If you are serious,

        and I agree with kirth that it’s a bit hard to tell, then I trust you would be on board with un-hamstringing law enforcement regarding guns. Over the years, as I’m sure you know, the NRA has managed to get Congress to erect all sorts of ridiculous barriers to ATF and other agencies tracking the movement of guns. Indeed, what you propose for video games is far more than what can now be done for guns. If your idea is to work, all of those barriers would have to come down.

        If you’re on board with that, maybe we have a starting point.

        • If you would like to have a full discussion

          I’d be happy.

          Here’s the main problem with this “discussion”: gun owners, and certainly the NRA, are resistant to the removal of any these so-called barriers, and are 100% against any further legislative restrictions, because they believe the ultimate goal of government, progressives, and the anti-gun lobby is to prohibit and confiscate all civilian guns, either by prohibition, onerous tax schemes, or unworkable licensing.

          Diane Finestein has said as much, at least about handguns. So has Gov. Cuomo. Confiscation.

          Let me begin the discussion by suggesting you agree to a constitutional amendment with the following in it:

          (1) airtight terms of the unequivocal right of the people to buy, possess, use, sell, transfer, etc., any firearm, accessory, or ammunition whatsoever;
          (2) a statement of the universal right of self-defense;
          (3) a nationally accepted, “shall issue” license to carry a concealed weapon, administered by the state; and
          (4) the full repeal of the 1934 National Firearms Act (ok, ok, except explosive devices, hand grenades, and missiles.)

          In return, I think gun owners could then agree to
          (1) full registration of existing and new purchases and transfers
          (2) universal national/local background checks
          (3) mandatory training
          (4) additional licensing and training (to own and use, for example, hi-cap magazines, fully automatic weapons, military style weapons, suppressors, etc.)
          (5) and whatever else makes you comfortable with civilian ownership of guns.

          The only other option for meaningful gun restrictions, if all this is beyond the pale, is amending or repealing the 2nd Amendment.

          Everything else is an ineffective placebo to make anti-gun people feel better.

          • Lunacy

            “Any firearm, accessory or ammunition whatsoever”? You’re out of your mind.

            Whatever “universal right of self-defense” may exist does not, by any stretch of imagination, require assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — never mind the absurd expansion of weaponry your first item would create.

            I can think of few more effective ways to explode the number of gun-related tragedies than to increase the number of people carrying concealed weapons.

            The second amendment should be repealed, and replaced with an equivalent that allows weapons for hunting and target sports only. The hundreds of millions of weapons and the billions of rounds of ammunition for them already in possession of Americans should be recaptured. High-capacity magazines should be recaptured. Future ammunition sales should be heavily taxed, and insurance rates for those who choose to own guns for hunting and target sports should skyrocket.

            Our society cannot afford to have these hundreds of millions of weapons and the ammunition that they require in circulation.

            The absurd right-wing delusion that unbridled and unregulated self-interest is somehow blessed by an invisible deity and will therefore solve all of society’s problems is simply insane.

            The insanity must stop.

            • Out in the open now

              Thanks, Tom, for being honest. I don’t think I’ve seen such an unadorned and unequivocal statement of the progressive position on individual freedom, the 2nd Amendment, and gun rights. Reasonable men disagree. We disagree. Nobody is insane.

              So go right ahead and begin the constitutional process to repeal the 2nd Amendment because that’s the only way you’ll see your ideals promulgated. None of them is politically possible.

              • Insanity is ...

                Insanity is repeating the same action in the same circumstances over and over, expecting the results to change.

                The suggestion that we expand the number of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition, expand the number of “saturday night specials” and other handguns, and expand the number of people carrying concealed weapons in response to the growing number of massacres is, by the above definition, insane.

                I stand by my characterization of this proposal.

                • That's funny

                  I was thinking the exact same thing: more and more “sensible gun ‘safety’ regulations” but gun violence keeps happening. Reaction: more gun laws!

                  • You seem to forget

                    You seem to forget that the Supreme Court disastrously ruled in Heller in 2008 that gun control laws could not be enforced and then expanded that ruling to states in the McDonald v. Chicago in 2010 (so much for state’s rights).

                    We are, in fact, now seeing the results of right-wing dogma writ large: murder and mayhem spread throughout the land, essentially unchecked by government owned by the NRA, while we turn our backs on the reasonable and moderate (never mind accurate) interpretations of the Second Amendment.

                    Sorry, but you have your facts about these offensive weapons and the obscene industry that promotes them exactly backwards.

                • I think you know LITTLE about guns

                  Define “assault weapon.”
                  What is “high capacity ammunition”?
                  Define “Saturday night special.” How do you differentiate that from “other handguns.”
                  Please show statistics on “the growing number of massacres.”

                  Concealed carry has expanded dramatically — “dramatically” is an understatement — in the past two decades yet there has been no increase in violent crime or gun deaths, and even indications of a decrease in both. And please review the section “Research on the efficacy of concealed carry” to educate yourself.

                  Gun ownership and concealed carry have a positive side. The DOJ suggests between 108,000 and 23 million (million!) “defensive gun uses” annually; other private estimates are 764,000 to 3.6 million DGUs per year. Either way, that’s A LOT of crime that didn’t occur.

                  The facts are mostly contrary to your stated positions.

      • Interesting point on weapons trainng

        Jonathan Swift’s original Modest Proposal was meant satirically. His solution to the problem of poor children:

        I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

        I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.

        So it is hard to discern whether you are serious or not.

    • Big government?

      Guess Big Government is ok for lawful gun owners. Why not gamers? They contributed to Newtown. Why not the seriously, clinically mentally ill, dangers to themselves and others? They contributed to Newtown.

      • No guns, no massacres

        Everything else is just window dressing.

      • Moronic comment

        My grandfather was killed by a gun and I will never bring one into my home or touch one. EVER. But I have played lots of violent video games, which, if anything, are a great alternative to gun ownership since I can take out all my anger within an electronic fantasy realm without having it harm real people. I wouldn’t be surprised if my generation is the first where gun ownership drops off significantly because we grew up hunting grunts in Halo instead of deer in real life, and I think that makes us less violent since we arent killing anything. This also doesn’t change the fact that the UK, Australia, W. Europe and Asia just LOVE video games and have had ZERO mass shootings. I am pretty sure the guns are the culprit. Its also clearly NOT about the Bill of Rights since you clearly favor the 2nd amendment over the 1st.

        Also you are clearly not a gamer, as it is very violent video games are regulated like over the counter drugs and you need parental permission or doctors permission if you are mentally ill or liable to seizures. Otherwise proof of ID that you are old enough to play is required. Every rated M game I got my mom either was present and verbally consented or I was old enough to buy on my own. I dont see how you can regulate it further. And unlike the joke of the MPAA, the video game industry self regulates and takes this very seriously.

        • Truly sorry about your grandfather

          The fact remains that the entertainment and venting you derive from playing violent video games is different than the erosion of reality someone like Adam Lanza experienced. Was he able to disconnect from the game, or is the game-playing practical target practice and immoral reinforcement for mass murder?

          As for mass shootings in W. Europe, what about the July 2011 rampage in Norway, a country with extremely strict gun regs, 77 killed.

          I do not understand your comment about my preferring the 2nd Amendment over the 1st. I cherish both, and do not feel either impinges on the other.

          And in terms of further regulation of violent gaming, I believe there is a growing groundswell that there are many negatives to such exposure. The Commonwealth has begun to pull them out of highway service plazas. And I believe I heard something about a violent game buy-back in Boston today…could be wrong about that.

        • Venting

          I cannot speak to the effect on you, but one of the surprising results in psychology has been that “venting” does not “release” anger. We come to that intuition through hydrolic models of the mind, like Freud’s. (Things build up. Tension accumulates. We attempt stop up feelings like beavers stopping streams.) However studies persistently show that that’s not how the mind works. What you call venting is more often practicing. Instead of releasing anger, it constitutes practicing anger and makes one more likely to be angry and more likely to exercise anger in more extreme ways.

          This, by the way, is particularly well know to those who treat people with anger management issues. Beating pillows, so popular in the 70s, is a very bad prescription.

          • Thanks for support my point

            If violent video games, the ones where you shoot people, are first and foremost “practice,” then they should be banned except for law enforcement and the military who can deploy the technology in their training.

            There is no need for these violent games, and they should be banned because they help train psychotic maniacs, like Lanza. If their banning saves ONE LIFE, it’s worth it.

  2. Salience bias

    While I might be relieved that shootings at Newton, Aurora, and Columbine are forcing the nation to confront gun violence, most gun violence, e.g. suicides and crimes that would not have occurred had guns not been in easy reach, will not be reduced by pondering examples like Holmes and Lanza.

    To an unfortunate degree, there are murders and suicides all around us; we are motivated not to stop them necessarily but just to keep the discomfort-inducing ones off the TV screen.

    • Fact the facts

      (1) gun control does nothing to prevent the use of guns in crimes because, well, the perp is committing a crime and doesn’t follow the law, so how do “tough gun laws” affect him? They don’t, of course.

      The proof of this is the murder rate in Chicago and DC, two cities where it has been nearly ILLEGAL to own and keep a firearm.

      Armed crime in the UK doubled in the decade ending 2009, and the confiscated 99% of the handguns. Guess the bad guys didn’t get the memo.

      (2) Oh, and suicides. Japan prohibits weapons, yet the suicide rate is 26 per 100,000, the US is 11, and the UK is 9. I see no correlation.

      • Unconvincing

        Just compare the number of homicides per million or the number of gun crimes per million. The U.S. rates are shocking. British rates would have to climb quite a bit to catch up.

        Chicago and DC still have a lot of guns: Our cities are not islands separated by channels, walls, or moats. We have these things called cars.

        • You miss my point

          The UK is indeed catching up despite the absolute prohibition of handguns. My point was not to compare rates per 100,000 but to illustrate the total ineffectiveness of gun bans. And a more appropriate measure is UK rates before AND after the ban.

          Ditto Chicago and DC. They have had absolute handgun bans. Gun rights people keep screaming “criminals don’t follow the law and gun laws don’t apply to them,” but gun-control people refuse to acknowledge this fact.

          • Manufactures continue to produce them

            From the first Google hit in my search:

            The number of guns manufactured in the U.S. grew to 5.5 million in 2010, up 86 percent from 2001. 310 million firearms are in civilian hands.

            The number of guns manufactured each year in the U.S. grew from 2.9 million in 2001 to nearly 5.5 million in 2010, which was one of the highest-volume years in history. Another 2.84 million foreign-made guns were imported in 2010.

            The government estimated there were 310 million firearms in civilian hands in 2009 – nearly as many weapons as American citizens.

            Gun bans would be far more effective if American manufacturers didn’t produce MILLIONS OF THEM per year.

            You are promoting obscenity.

            • What's your point? It's a legal industry

              See my comments to you above. If you want to implement the changes you suggest, you must repeal the 2nd Amendment. There’s no other politically feasible way.

          • "Catching up"

            I would not use this word.

            U.S. homicide rate: 4.8 per 100,000. U.K. homicide rate: 1.2 per 100,000. In other words one quarter the U.S. rate.

            • Comparing the wrong stats

              I’m guessing the 2nd Amendment does not “explain” the cross-sectional difference in homicide rates between counties just as guns access does not explain suicide rates (see: Japan.) I would look at the change in UK and Australian homicide rates before and after their bans.

              Or look at Chicago and DC, cities with high homicide rates. They have draconian handgun restrictions.

          • Facts not acknowledged

            There’s a problem with the inchoate screams made by the gun rights folks about criminals not following gun laws.

            What the scream presumes is that most every crime is carefully premeditated — like Holmes and likely Lanza.

            In fact, that’s not the case.

            There are a whole lot of crimes — and deaths — made possible by the convenient availability of guns. Even with carefully prepared crime, there are a lot of steps to prepare. If getting guns and ammunition is made less convenient, then even more preparation is required. And that serves as a significant deterrent.

            The gun “rights” crowd tends to think of everything in terms of a television drama where are criminals are as sly and resourceful as Professor Moriarty. Perhaps if they were to wake up and rejoin the real world, we could cut our homicide rate down to Britain’s too.

            • See my comment above

              Additionally, I recently saw a map of all the homicides in Boston (I think the BPD website.) It’s remarkable to see the extreme concentration of the dots on the map. Homicides are not randomly distributed across neighborhoods but seem to be correlated in high crime areas. We can debate cause and effect, but I see this suggesting that “crime happens, and often guns will be used,” not “guns cause crime.”

              Certainly laws have been written to prohibit these crimes like robbery and murder, yet they occur, and in areas where they occur, illegal gun use is high. Pass an ammunition restriction, which, BTW, MA has (can’t purchase ammunition without a firearms license,) will the crimes decrease?

              I wouldn’t call this logic unassailable, but it’s not ” inchoate screams.”

  3. Seriously!?

    Video games are not themselves weapons of murder; guns are. I wouldn’t mind a legally enforceable rating system whereby certain video games can only be sold to adults, but trying to make this comparison to proposals to regulate the actual weapons is insane.

    • Flight schools and 911?

      Not completely preposterous.

    • Two points

      I wouldn’t mind a legally enforceable rating system whereby certain video games can only be sold to adults,

      It already exists and it already works just fine. If you are not an adult you need a parent present to buy the video game, much like an over the counter drug requires an ID. These regulations were implemented by the industry, are stronger than the joke of the MPAA ratings board, and were a response to the post-Columbine Lieberman/Tipper/Heston strategy of blaming video games. Clearly we already regulated them and clearly they failed to stop massacres, maybe its time to actually regulate, you know, the actual weapons that kill people

      but trying to make this comparison to proposals to regulate the actual weapons is insane.

      And Bingo, you get it, too bad Shepherd doesn’t.

  4. I don't see anything in this post...

    …about cross-checking enrollment in flight schools.

    • Or anything but

      troll bait disguised as a post.

    • Not sure you get my point

      My point, in more words: If, as asserted, some video games provide excellent training for using military-style weapons, then heavy users of such games may be said to have training that equips them for carrying out military operations — or massacres — just as flight school might equip hijackers for flying planes they’ve seized.

      I’m not sure bostonshepherd’s premise is even true as he seems to have scrubbed his post of links before publishing it.

      • Your point is a good one, KBusch.

        Bandura, not Freud. In a non-violent context, my town’s highway department hired a couple of young college kids after last year’s October snowstorm damage. They proved very adept at cherry-picking debris around powerlines. My guess was their video gaming experience helped.

        BostonShepherd is shoveling the same crap that the gun nuts are shoveling. He probably left the links out because they’d go to a fringy website. I’ve been reading some of these wingnut groups’ websites. They are scary. I caught a ride with my police chief today (we had a Homes for Troops ceremony to attend) and he told me that a local police had pulled over a sovereign citizen that doesn’t believe he needs a driver’s license or a registered car. There’s a guy who ran for selectman in the town I work in who is an Oath Keeper, an organization whose members pledge not to violate the Constitution as they interpret it. Ron Paul seems to be a gateway drug for these anti-government wingnuts.

        • Straw man arguement

          Mark, it’s easy to pick deep fringe websites and try to define gun rights people with it, but it’s a sign of desperation (or maybe it’s a reflex.) You have few valid counterarguments when the history and facts of various gun control measures, like the AWB, or, more draconian, outright bans, are considered.

          The “sovereign citizen” story is amusing and all that (and I especially like the way you added the chief into it in an appeal to authority) but it’s certainly not representative of conservative civil sentiment, just as the smelly anarchist lunatics of the “Occupy” movement (despite having a few valid theoretical points) aren’t at all representative of the thoughtful progressives here at BMG.

          As serious as I am about regulating or banning all video games which in any way depict the shooting of animate targets, I am sure there are plenty of progressives who would take a First Amendment “anti-government” stance in a heart beat in defense of those game titles. (Too bad for them and the First Amendment, these games WILL be banned. By government. But if a SINGLE LIFE is saved as a result, it’s worth it.)

          Please try harder to stick to the debate and avoid cartoonish characterizations of others.

          • Your turn

            So who are these respectable conservative sites we should be reading? The main and largest websites on the right, RedState and World Net Daily, do not count as respectable.

            • Frum? Douthat? Brooks? The American Conservative?

              Those blogs and pundits are all respectable, all conservative, and all endorse far more gun control than the NRA. Just saying. This is a truly bipartisan issue. Law and order conservative should be favoring gun control, and the ones with self respect are.

              • Yeah

                But bostonshepherd’s claim is that there are reasoned, non-extreme gun-rights commentators who shower more often than the smelly anarchist hippies of the Occupy movement.

                The remarkable Mark Bail didn’t find them. To state my challenge more strongly: I assert that they do not exist.

          • I was responding to KBusch,

            but you can certainly avoid cartoonish by providing sources, can’t you? I said “probably” and meant it.

            I was told that when I was talking with my police chief. I’m a selectman and was talking to him about the Oathkeepers. I negotiate his contract and talk with him every couple of weeks. He thought I was referring to the sovereign citizen incident in Hadley. No appeal to authority. Just details from an anecdote.

            I didn’t even make a counter-argument to you. So how can I have any? The gun nuts are out there. You may not be one, but I’m encountering them as I have said. I have been a gun owner. I’m not even against guns, just for laws that may someday stem the tide of violence. Here in Massachusetts, I think we already do pretty well.

            Here’s a loaded question for you: are guns and video games are equally responsible for gun violence?

      • The Commonwealth agrees with you, kbusch

        It is illegal in Massachusetts to sell, use, or shoot at any target with a human image on it. Against the law. The extension to video games is only logical.

        • Ridiculous

          You can grab my video games from my cold dead hands.

          Seriously, you think if a ban on video games saves one life its worth it? How about a ban on guns? That seems like it would save far more lives and would be worth it.

          The UK, Australia, China, Western Europe and East Asia are also huge video games markets, have less ratings and regulations regarding video games than we do but far stricter regulations and registrations regarding guns and lo and behold they have significantly less gun violence.

          After Columbine we made it as hard to get a violent video game than it is to get a violent gun. Video games have nothing to do with gun violence. Period. Absolutely no correlation. So stop with the bullshit and either propose real solutions or admit you love your guns or some nebulous constitutional concept more than you love keeping our streets and children safe. You have a right to that opinion. But pick a side.

          • Like extra carbon dioxide

            Just as cutting carbon emissions has a lagged effect because there’s already too much carbon up in the sky, so too gun control will only gradually decrease the presence of guns.

            So we might imagine that violent videos in a country swimming in armaments might be more dangerous than countries more sanely governed. Similar to lighting matches. Safe under normal conditions. Not safe near a gas leak.


            In any case, this remains speculative. The right tends to think that if something is “common sense” for them, it is true. That’s why social conservatives really believe abstinence education works. Same thing seems to be the case here. I’m not ready to believe that video games train one to use automatic weapons without more data. I’m not gonna jump from ‘plausible’ to ‘true’.

          • Faulty thinking

            In the case of Lanza and Harris and Klebold, and I’m sure others, violent video games WERE involved, if not in allowing these disturbed individuals to descend below societal and moral standards, then certainly in terms of very real and effective gun training…sight picture, hand-eye, and, most importantly, engaging multiple, moving targets.

            VP Biden has now set the standard: “if one life is saved, it’s worth it.”

            • Just to repeat myself

              in a more appropriate place:

              What role did video games play? Was that role equivalent to having access to a loaded gun?

        • Fact bomb


          Study 2

          Study 3

          Study 4 </a>

          But hey gun control works!

          Ante up with evidence or STFU

          • Facts and context

            Well the 3rd and 4th may quote studies but aren’t studies. Also the fourth is open to my methodological criticism: a video game in a country awash with guns can have a different effect in a country with few guns. One has to factor out that variable.

            The argument, I thought, was not that video games caused violent behavior but that they can function as weapons training–again without evidence. bostonshepherd does owe a link to support that.

            • I owe those citations

              And thank you for clarifying my point about the cause-effect relationship.

            • A link

              which suggest violent video games are effective weapons training tools.

              There is an entire industry devoted to training military and law enforcement officers, and many of them use sophisticated video technologies, especially effective for cops in scenario training. Here’s one manufacturer.

              I’ll keep looking for more citations. Thanks for your patience.

              • Hooray! A link!

                Actually that does lend some evidence to the premise of your argument.

                I note that Wikipedia has a summary of controversies surrounding video games. This quotation from Henry Jenkins seemed particularly surprising:

                According to federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low. Researchers find that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population. It’s true that young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players. But young people in general are more likely to be gamers — 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls play. The overwhelming majority of kids who play do not commit antisocial acts. According to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General’s report, the strongest risk factors for school shootings centered on mental stability and the quality of home life, not media exposure. The moral panic over violent video games is doubly harmful. It has led adult authorities to be more suspicious and hostile to many kids who already feel cut off from the system. It also misdirects energy away from eliminating the actual causes of youth violence and allows problems to continue to fester

                There’s even a fair bit of evidence that video games confer significant cognitive benefits. “Moral panic”, by the way, is a term of art in this context: it is the popular reaction to something perceived as threatening to the social order.

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