President Barack Obama's call in January for research into the relationship between video games, media images and violence is one step closer to spurring a new study.
Sources tell Polygon that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent are reviewing a new report and research questions created by the Institute of Medicine that calls for, among other things, a study focusing on firearm violence as a specific outcome of violence in the media, including music, social media and video games. If approved and funded, the new studies would take three to five years to conduct.
The research agenda, requested by the CDC, bolsters earlier reports that the Centers believe further research into any possible connection between video games, media and violence is both necessary and likely.
The "Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence" report acknowledges that recent research into the effects of violence in media have begun to include not just television and movies, but also music, video games and even social media. But it goes on to say that no research has dealt with the specific issues Obama raised in his January Presidential Memorandum.
"In more than 50 years of research, no study has focused on firearm violence as a specific outcome of violence in media," according to the report. "As a result, a direct relationship between violence in media and real-life firearm violence has not been established and will require additional research."
"In more than 50 years of research, no study has focused on firearm violence as a specific outcome of violence in media."
The report was created by an ad hoc committee appointed to develop for the CDC a proposed public health research agenda to "improve knowledge of the causes of gun violence, the interventions that prevent gun violence and strategies to minimize the public health burden of gun violence."
The project, which kicked off about a month after the Presdential Memorandum was announced, is sponsored by the National Academies, the CDC and the CDC foundation.
The two-page report brief offers new insight into the direction that the mandated research into gun violence might go. The CDC and CDC Foundation asked the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council to help develop a research agenda on the causes of, possible intervention to and strategies to minimize firearm-related violence, according to the report.
The proposed agenda, which is designed to produce results in three to five years, is broken down into five categories: tracking gun violence, identifying risk factors, firearm violence prevention, examining new gun safety technology and the influence of video games and other media. Examining the impact of mental health was excluded from the research, according to the committee.
On Jan. 16, President Obama called for the CDC to conduct further research into the relationship between video games, media images and violence. It was among 23 gun violence reduction executive actions laid out during a nationally televised address spurred by the Newtown shooting.
The proposals came out of a task force formed by Vice President Joe Biden which was created to examine how to decrease violence in America. That task force met with 220 different organizations during 22 different meetings. The last of those meetings was with video game industry officials, researchers and executives.
"In the absence of this research, policy makers will be left to debate controversial policies without scientifically sound evidence about their potential effects."
The call for research into any connection between video games and gun violence was part of a broader research request backed by the lifting of a virtual ban on federally-funded scientific agencies examining gun violence.
While calling for research, President Obama said that "Congress will fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds."
The proposed agenda outlined in the report will be used to help the CDC establish their research priorities, but it still hinges on Congress providing the Centers $10 million in funding for the next fiscal year. If approved, research would kick off in fiscal year 2014, sources tell Polygon.
The end goal of the research is to produce a better base of knowledge from which to make more informed decisions concerning gun violence, according to the report.
"The evidence generated by implementing a public health research agenda will enable the development of sound policies that support both the rights and the responsibilities central to gun ownership in the United States," the report concludes. "In the absence of this research, policy makers will be left to debate controversial policies without scientifically sound evidence about their potential effects."
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