National Rifle Association

Video games are a staple of the modern-day college experience. But what role do they play in college students’ lives and the national gun control discussion?

A Pew Internet Research study conducted last year indicated that some 70 percent of college students in America play video games at least “once in a while.” Find a dorm room or an apartment with a TV in it and you’re bound to find an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 close by, often alongside video games like “Call of Duty,” “Battlefield,” or “Assassin’s Creed,” titles whose violent content is no surprise and no secret to anyone remotely familiar with the industry.

Video games, especially the violent ones, have become accepted in our society to such an extent that we often forget that they can model real life courses of action. David Yeager, assistant professor in the UT Department of Psychology, says video games can cause an inclination towards violence but cannot empirically be proven to be the root cause of an event like a school shooting.

“Other events have to happen to tip the scales into a shooting,” Yeager says, alluding to the fact that more serious issues like mental disorders are at play when someone turns to homicide. Yeager also adds, “I don’t think it’s fair to say that the violent media caused the shootings,” the bottom line being that people with mental disorders will inherently have a greater propensity for such violent acts, and playing a video game does not push them that much further towards an act they’ve already conceived in their heads.

A Harvard study released in October 2010 corroborates a very simple fact: Previous studies that claimed video games cause violence did not use methods that prove cause and effect; these previous studies were merely observational and didn’t delve deep enough into the issue. Furthermore, closer looks into offending violent youths revealed that they had personality traits like psychosis and aggression which caused them to act so violently — traits that would have existed regardless of the presence of violent video games.

So why, then, is the National Rifle Association pointing its finger at violent video games? The answer is simple: self-interest. The NRA do anything to steer the discussion of gun violence away from guns. Some might say that’s because the organization is dedicated to protecting the rights of the millions of law-abiding gun owners around the U.S., which would have been true a few years ago before newer, more profitable partners popped up on its radar. The NRA has become the most powerful protector of the $12 billion per year gun industry. For example, after intense lobbying in Congress by the NRA back in 2005, the gun industry was granted immunity from liability lawsuits pertaining to gun violence. That same year, the NRA launched a fundraiser that secured millions of dollars from corporate sponsors, the sponsors being large-scale weapons manufacturers and businesses of the same type — businesses that would be hurt from gun control laws.

So the deal works like this: The NRA scratches the back of the gun industry by doing it favors in Congress, and the industry reciprocates with millions of dollars in donations. Then the NRA blames every potential cause of gun violence except the lucrative firearms that bring in massive profits for both parties. So when listening to the debate, don’t buy into the notion that something as socially acceptable and ubiquitous as playing violent video games causes a teenager to barge into a school and start killing people. You’re hearing a debate that is dodging more pertinent issues, such as the mental health of the shooters or the actual guns themselves.

Hays is a journalism freshman from Dripping Springs.

After a series of tumultuous events and heated debates, UT students can rest assured that measures to allow students to carry guns on campus will not be permitted. Last week, Sam Cummings, a conservative federal judge in Lubbock, Texas, dismissed the National Rifle Association’s challenge to a Texas law prohibiting teenagers and adults ages 18 to 20 from carrying concealed weapons in the case Jennings v. McCraw. Partnering with UT’s Student Government, the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project fought to defend the law that will help ensure our safety on campus.

Citing the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms, the NRA urged that this law be altered to give teens as young as 13 access to concealed weapons in public. The judge disagreed with this extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment. Instead he opted to follow the wisdom of other courts around the country that have prohibited weapon concealment around parks and playgrounds, and he noted that this right does not “extend beyond the home.” The Brady Center fought against the NRA’s challenge, declaring in a brief that studies demonstrate that persons under 21 may lack the same insights and judgment that adults possess. Furthermore, persons aged 18 to 20 fall within the range of the highest rates of homicide and criminal gun possession. Their brief effectively demonstrated the dangers of underage gun possession, helping to close this irrational case.

The issue of gun control is close to the University’s heart because of the incident involving an armed individual our campus faced in 2010. But even prior to this event, the issue of guns on campus was highly contentious, with many viewing the number of college shootings in recent years as clear evidence that guns should be prohibited on campus. As school becomes increasingly competitive around the country and mental health issues are becoming more common, allowing young adults to carry concealed weapons on campus would create a dangerous environment, threatening not just other students, faculty and staff but the weapon wielders themselves.

With the responsibility and potential dangers that come with concealed weapon privileges, the utmost precaution must be taken. The Lubbock judge was able to distinguish this fact without constructing constitutional rights.

Critics of the Texas law argue that 18-year-olds may enlist in the army and are responsible for carrying weapons at this age and that, consequently, all 18-year-olds should be afforded this privilege. This irrelevant argument attempts to equate a situation in which 18-year-olds are highly trained and supervised with a situation of an untrained 18-year-old interacting in normal settings with only a permit.

According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , there were 1,547 gun-caused deaths in the United States among people between 18 and 19 years old during 2007, which illustrates the danger of gun use in this age group.

With recent assaults in West Campus calling for the need of a safer campus environment, permitting concealed weapons for young adults is not the answer. Increasing safety education and the use of programs such as UT’s SURE Walk will better ensure students’ safety. Moreover, working to raise awareness of stress and mental illness and removing the stigma surrounding seeking medical help in these cases will further improve the well-being of students. Fortunately, the federal court judge made the right call on this issue and thereby helped to increase our safety.

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.

Most UT students will remain ineligible to obtain a concealed handgun license after a district court ruling last week.

United States district judge Samuel Cummings threw out a motion to overturn a Texas law that prohibits 18- to 20-year-olds from obtaining a concealed carry license on Thursday.

The National Rifle Association filed a case on May 16, 2011, claiming that the state law keeping people under the age of 21 from carrying a concealed handgun violated the U.S. constitution, wrote Cummings last week in his court opinion on the case.

“The licensing scheme does not burden the fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” Cummings wrote. “Neither does the licensing scheme target a suspect class.”

Although most college students cannot legally carry concealed firearms under the current law, a person under 21 is still eligible for a license to carry a concealed handgun if the person is a “member or veteran of the United States armed forces,” according to the Texas Government Code.

Andre Treiber, spokesman for the University Democrats, said the organization supports Cumming’s decision.

“Look back to your graduating class in high school, and think about if your peers were mature enough then to handle the responsibility that comes with a Concealed Handgun License,” Treiber said. “I certainly know that there are people from my year that I don’t think can responsibly handle guns now, let alone then.”

Treiber said he and other members of the organization have been invested in increasing safety regulation for firearm use for over a year.

“We worked closely with Students for Gun-Free Schools to lobby members of the state legislature over the guns on campus issue,” he said. “The judge’s ruling, then, follows exactly what we like — sensible regulation for a rational interest, that interest being public health and safety.”

Alice Tripp, spokeswoman for the Texas State Rifle Association, said the case was promoted by the NRA.

“It is not a lawsuit brought by us, but we support it,” Tripp said. “Given the other constitutional rights endowed to 18-year-olds — the right to vote, the right to fight in war — [the government of the state of Texas] is not being consistent.”

Tripp also said she thought this lawsuit was not especially related to Texas laws, which prohibit concealed carry on campus.

“This case deals with the discrepancy between the age of voting and the age of concealed carry, and that is what is especially disturbing in this case,” she said.

Printed on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 as: District judge chooses to keep concealed carry license age restriction