New reports suggesting Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter Adam
Lanza was inspired by violent video games, as well as a desire to
out-kill Norway mass shooter Anders Breivik, has added fuel to the
firestorm over the role violent video games and copycat behavior
play in mass shootings.
Law-enforcement officials speaking with CBS News say evidence
found in Mr. Lanzas home including a trove of violent video games
and newspaper clippings about the 2011 Norway mass shooting led
them to deduce potential motives behind the Newtown, Conn., massacre
that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook late last
But criminal-justice experts say research does not support a link
between violent video games and mass shootings such as the one Lanza
carried out Dec. 14.
There is no research to support that violent video games are
linked to violent behavior or to crime, says Scott Belshaw, a
criminal-justice professor at the University of North Texas in
Denton. Research does not substantiate that at all.
According to the report by two unnamed officials briefed on the
Newtown shootings who spoke with CBS News, Lanza aspired to outdo
Mr. Breivik, who hunted down and fatally shot 69 people at an annual
summer camp of the Norwegian Labor Party's youth wing in July 2011.
Lanza may have targeted Sandy Hook Elementary because it was the
easiest target with the largest cluster of people, according to CBS
Investigators formulated this theory after finding news articles
about the Norway shooting in the Lanza home and posited Lanza may
have felt an urge to compete with Breivik. The reports suggest that
Lanza wanted to exceed Breiviks body count, not that he was inspired
by the extreme right-wing ideology of Breivik, who called himself a
Investigators also found thousands of dollars worth of violent
video games in the basement of the Lanza home, where Lanza would
reportedly spend hours honing his shooting skills in a private
gaming room with the windows blacked out. Officials speaking with
PBSs "Frontline" say Lanza may have been inspired by these video
games, since he changed the magazines of his weapons more frequently
Connecticut police have dismissed the report as speculation.
All of it is speculation. There is no basis to the CBS story,
Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance said in a statement read on
CNN. We have not established a motive. It's inaccurate," he added.
Experts in the criminal-justice community are similarly skeptical
of ascribing violent behavior to video games.
At this point, there is not much evidence to support this belief,
says Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Texas A&M
International University in Laredo. To most of the criminal-justice
community, this is a dead issue.
For one, Dr. Ferguson notes, societal violence has been declining
for the past 20 years while video game usage is rising. And
countries that consume more violent video games than the US like
South Korea and the Netherlands have lower rates of violence.
But, says Patrick Markey, a professor of psychology at Villanova
University in Philadelphia, violent video games may have more of an
affect on people with mental illness, like Lanza, than on the
general population. …