In the wake of the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, conservative media figures and their allies in the pro-gun movement have their strategy down pat.
First, accuse the president, members of Congress, or media figures who suggest that perhaps there is the need to look at our country's ineffective gun laws of politicizing the tragedy.
Sean Hannity last night began a segment on the Navy Yard shooting question Fox News analyst Juan Williams about why advocates of gun safety laws “race to politicize atragedy and advance an agenda.”
Williams responded appropriately, turning Hannity's question on its head: “I don't think there is a race to politicize it except coming from the right,” he said. “And the race to politicize it from the right is, 'Oh don't bring up guns. Don't mention guns. Guns have nothing to do with it.' ”
Next, conservatives point to any cause of the tragedy that is not the actual instrument of death. After the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting, National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre, cast part of the blame on violent video games. This has now become the go to talking point for the right.
For example, just yesterday on Fox & Friends, newly minted cohost Elizabeth Hasselbeck asked, “Is there a link between a certain age group or demo in this -- twenty to thirty-four year old men, perhaps, that are playing these video games and then their violent actions? We have yet to find out.”
Actually we have. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, “Media use was not associated with either increased or decreased risk of adult criminality.”
No matter the research -- Fox News psychiatrist Keith Ablow declared violent video games are “no different than heroin or cocaine, but potentially more of a public health threat.”
Glenn Beck utilized a slightly different version of this excuse. First the host told his audience he was “not blaming video games for this [Navy Yard] shooting” or calling for a ban on video games, because “that's what progressives do.”
Beck then went on to indict national culture, claiming, “A gun ban is just as useless and wasteful as a video game ban. The answer is not, or will it ever be found, in what we take out of our society. But rather in what we have lost and must put back into our society.”
The right only raises the issue of violent video games and “culture” to create a diversion, attempting to avoid confronting the problem of our broken gun safety laws. The longer they can distract the public and the media, the more likely the public is to move on from the topic with no action taken. Like so many other issues, conservatives have chosen to respond not with a serious conversation of how to confront public policy problems, but by arming their base with fact-free talking points on issues they have no intention of doing anything about.