Is There Link Between Media, Gun Violence?

Following last year's Newtown shootings, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council proposes investigating the causes of gun-related violence that includes examining video games and other media.

Responding to an order from President Obama that came in the wake of the Newtown shootings last December, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council today released a proposal for investigating the causes of gun-related violence that includes a look at video games and other media.

“Although this research agenda is an initial, not all-encompassing set of questions, it could help better define the causes and prevention of firearm violence in order to develop effective policies to reduce its occurrence and impact in the U.S.,” said Alan Leshner, chairman of the study committee and CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Similar approaches to public health problems have produced successes in lowering tobacco use, accidental poisoning and motor vehicle fatalities,” he added.

A review of the past research on media violence finds that little of it focused on gun violence, the proposal says. “As a result, a direct relationship between media violence and real-life firearm violence has not be established.”

However, it says, research shows a relationship between exposure to media violence and “some measures of aggression and violent behavior. For example, it seems clear that there is a relationship between news stories of suicide and imitative suicides.”

“The experimental literature is also very convincing in documenting effects of short episodes of violent media exposure on short-term outcomes, although … some question the assumption that it is the violence of the media content that is the active component in these effects.”


Among the questions recommended to be addressed in new research:

  • Is there a relationship between long-term exposure to media violence and subsequent firearm-related violence? To what degree do violence-prone individuals disproportionately expose themselves to media violence?
  • If such a relationship exists, is it causal and who is most susceptible?
  • If a plausible case can be made that the relationship is causal, what kinds of people are most susceptible to the effects of media violence?
  • If the relationship is causal, which dimensions of media exposure are driving the relationship (e.g., competitiveness, violence, particular violence subtypes or contexts)?
  • Are the magnitude and consistency of the plausibly causal relationship sufficient to suggest a public health research agenda on interventions related to media violence?

In addition to media violence, the proposal recommends research into the characteristics of gun violence, risk and protective factors, effectiveness of gun violence prevention and interventions and gun safety technology.

The proposal says the research would take three to five years to complete.

Comments (3)

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Bree Fowler & Ken Thomas says:

June 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Well this is a waste of time…violent media is consumed the world over…and per capita video games sales show no relation to violence as countries with much larger videogames sales have less violence.

Gregg Palermo says:

June 5, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Most previous studies, in fact, show a weak correlation between media violence and aggressive behavior. If these new studies in fact show a relationship, I hope someone reports the effect size, which is a measure of whether anyone should care if a weak correlation is found again. I think mental illness is a far greater predictor of violent behavior, but the bleeding hearts closed the asylums years ago.

Jim Fiorentino says:

June 6, 2013 at 10:53 am

Is there a link between media and gun violence? No. Is there a link between evil, stupid and gun violence? Yes. Just saved a lot of people a lot of money.