NSF Subcommittee Report Includes Violent Media as Mass Shooting Risk Factor

Rep. Wolf Says Need for More Study of Multifaceted Problem

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) released a National Sciences Foundation advisory committee report that identified violent media as one of three major risk factors associated with mass shootings.

Wolf is chairman of the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee, which requested the report, essentially a review of existing research, following the Sandy Hook shootings.

The report was prepared by the Subcommittee on Youth violence of the Advisory Committee to the Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate of NSF. Even so, the report also makes clear that it does not necessarily reflect the view of the NSF.

Wolf has said he believes such mass killings are the result of a combination of factors including access to mental health, access to firearms (the two other major risk factors identified in the report) and access to violent media, including video games.  

Wolf said last week he was disappointed the president did not talk about media violence and mental health when talking about violence in the State of the Union address. ""While I recognize the potential constitutional issues involved in tackling media violence, mental health parity and gun control, I am disappointed that mental health issues and media violence were left out of the president's address," Wolf said in a statement.

But he did not appear to be advocating for censorship. Wolf pointed to one of the report's findings that suggested solutions for addressing media violence were "warning labels, establishing a universal rating system that would make ratings among all types of media uniform and easier to understand, and educating parents."

Various entertainment associations, including the Motion Picture Association of America, have also emphasized ratings and education, though stopping short of drawing a causal connection between violent media and real world violence. Last week, MPAA Chief Chris Dodd said that mental health should be a focus of government effort.

Wolf says he is considering legislation that would require violence-lite versions of video games and with, say, blue rather than red, blood, as they do in Europe.

"On behalf of children and families across the country, we commend Rep. Wolf for keeping the issue of media violence at the forefront by requesting this report," said Parents Television Council president Tim Winter. "Rep. Wolf has long been an advocate for measures that would protect children from violent and sexually explicit media, and we see this report as a positive step towards meaningful change."