A US Senator has voiced his support for research into whether videogames can cause real-world violence, saying he is concerned that games can push people with existing mental illnesses "over the edge."
Senator Chris Murphy represents the state of Connecticut, where, in December, 2012, 20 schoolchildren and six adults were killed during a mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was later alleged that the perpetrator had been a fan of the Call of Duty series of videogames.
As well as initiating new legislation to ban the sale of assault weapons, in response to the Sandy Hook shooting, US President Barack Obama assigned $10m (£6.5m) to the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health to conduct research into any possible connection between videogames and real-world violent behaviour. Speaking in an interview with Gamespot, Murphy said there was a "trend" of mass-shooters being exposed to videogames:
"What we know is that this young man was deeply mentally ill and walking the school with an assault weapon armed with 30-round magazines. And what we also know, is that he spent a lot of time playing violent video games.
"Now, nobody can sit here for certain and say that without any one of those things, without the powerful weapons, without the mental illness, without the exposure to video games, this wouldn't have happened. We can't put ourselves in his mind. But we do see a trend where some of these shooters do have exposure to these video games."
However Murphy explained that the evidence was anecdotal and that before any legislation could be passed, proper research would have to be collected:
"What we admittedly don't have...is any peer-reviewed studies or research that tell us that there is a definitive link between exposure to violent video games and violence. What researchers will tell you, is that if you already have a severe mental illness, and a predilection to violence, perhaps the video game exposure can put you over the edge. But in and of itself, there is no research showing that there's a link.
"Before we pass any legislation, which would limit the exposure that people have to these types of video games, I think it's important that we have the research and the data and that's what we're trying to do right now."
Alongside the research launch by President Obama, US Vice-President Joe Biden met representatives of the game industry in January to discuss solutions to the problem of youth violence.
In a subsequent meeting with religious representatives, Biden said there was "no restriction on the ability" of the US government to impose a special tax on videogames with violent material, adding there was "no legal reason" it could not be implemented.
However, as per legislation introduced by the Supreme Court in 2011, videogames are protected under the right to free speech, as outlined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Despite continued efforts to research the link between videogames and violence, tighter gun control laws floated by President Obama have been consistently thrown out by the Senate. The proposed ban on assault weapons failed to pass in March, followed by a bill that would extend the length of background checks required before a gun could be purchased.