The top Republican in the House expressed concern about the influence of video games following the two deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio over the weekend.
“The idea of these video games, they dehumanize individuals to have a game of shooting individuals and others,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in an interview on Fox News on Sunday.
At least nine people were killed and scores more injured in a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning ― less than 24 hours after a gunman entered a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and killed at least 22 people.
Police are investigating whether the suspected shooter in El Paso, a 21-year white man arrested at the scene, was motivated by a hatred of Hispanic people. A four-page manifesto that he may have posted on social media shortly before the killings described the attack as a response to the “Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Federal officials announced Sunday they are treating the El Paso massacre as an act of domestic terrorism and that the suspect may face hate crime charges.
The manifesto also reportedly included a brief reference to the first-person shooter video game “Call of Duty.”
McCarthy was asked on Fox News to respond to comments earlier in the day on the network by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a fellow Republican who called for federal action targeting the video game industry.
“I’ve always felt that is a problem for future generations and others,” McCarthy said. Studies have “shown before what it does to individuals. When you look at these photos of how (the El Paso shooting) took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”
Republicans have long insisted on a link between violent video games and mass shootings. Despite McCarthy’s comments, studies on the matter have been less than conclusive.
Researchers at the University of Oxford in England, for example, reported earlier this year that they found no relationship between aggressive behavior in teenagers and the amount of time spent playing violent video games. Moreover, other nations where video games are just as prevalent don’t experience nearly the same amount of gun violence as the U.S. does.
As Democrats reacted to the weekend’s violence by stressing the need for more laws tightening gun control, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney argued more needed to be done to address the connection between mass violence and social media.
“Are we going to talk about the role of guns? Certainly, we are. But to think that this is just a gun issue that many people make it out to be is not right,” Mulvaney said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
This story has been updated after the death toll increased Monday morning.