Ashcroft Links Media, Violence

WASHINGTON — Attorney General John Ashcroft said violent video games can teach children to aim guns, and he urged manufacturers and parents to be responsible in making such games available to youngsters.

Returning to the theme of violent entertainment and children, Mr. Ashcroft told a group of newspaper editors that laws and government programs can’t stop the rash of school shootings across the country.

“What does it do to children, who see thousands of acts of violence on television, who are conditioned in video games to do things that are abhorrent to the human spirit?” he said in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Mr. Ashcroft said teenagers who fired on fellow students in Kentucky and Colorado had watched violent video games. He noted the Kentucky shooter, Michael Carneal, learned how to aim from video games and was a better shot than most policemen.

“I’m not here to say we shouldn’t have video games,” Mr. Ashcroft said. “I’m here to say we are poorly situated to deny that these kinds of setting have an impact on what we do. We live in a culture of violence, and it’s going to take more than government to address it. Everyone has to have a role.”

He has talked previously about the possible influence of violent video games. Mr. Ashcroft advocates manufacturers, parents, teachers and others coming together to teach children not to lash out with violence. Video-game manufacturers “may have to understand that there’s a certain responsibility in the development of video games,” he said.

Mr. Ashcroft also urged the editors to run editorials praising retailers who enforce the use of a ratings system for video games. and said newspapers should carefully consider how they report school shootings. “I’ve noticed recently that each time a school shooting occurs there’s enormous media coverage,” he noted. “I have to wonder how much news coverage plays into the copycat incidents.”

In addition, Mr. Ashcroft said he wasn’t advocating the narrowing First Amendment rights of free speech and expression.

“If I were one to believe that the only solutions were governmental, I might be willing to trade First Amendment rights to improve the culture,” he noted. “Frankly, I don’t think trading First Amendment rights is a way to improve culture.”

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