The new president of the National League of Cities says he'll try to focus national attention on the effect of media violence on children.
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, who was elected Saturday at the group's national convention in Reno, said a growing body of research shows a link between aggressive, anti-social behavior and exposure to violence in video games, television shows, movies and songs.
Peterson, who has had little success limiting violent video games in Indianapolis, questioned whether media violence is to blame for school shootings.
The number of deadly school shootings has risen and fallen over the last 15 years. Overall school violence has shown a declining trend, although it has increased lately, according to a government study issued earlier this month.
"Can media violence be blamed in part for tragedies like Columbine?" he asked. "All I know is that when I was a kid there were disaffected students, students who felt ostracized ... but they didn't shoot up their schools. Something has changed.
"Most don't follow up hours of video-game violence with criminal acts, but can we ignore the connection when we have evidence of many who do, and when we see so plainly that our society is cruder and our crime rates are rising?"
Last month, a media watchdog group said a chainsaw-wielding killer and blood-splattered shooting rampages are featured in some of the 10 video games that should be avoided by kids and teens.
Peterson said he wants to initiate a national dialogue on the issue in an effort to come up with solutions.
"I don't expect us to find clear-cut, irrefutable answers to the questions posed today ... but we will be in a better position a year from now to talk with parents and our other constituents about media violence," Peterson said in his acceptance speech.
Peterson has had little success restricting video games in Indianapolis. In 2002, Indianapolis agreed to pay the video game industry $318,000 for lawyers' fees and other costs. The industry successfully challenged an ordinance -- backed by Peterson – that restricted arcade games.
The law would have required minors to show parental consent before playing violent or sexually explicit video games in public arcades. City officials said research shows a link between children's anti-social or violent behavior and media violence.
But the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled no evidence backs that up, and attempting to shield children from exposure to violent images would be "not only quixotic, but deforming."
There is nothing more upsetting that when politicians pick issues like this one to score political points, knowing there really is no real public policy answer to the problem, but it might make them look good to voters while they're talking about it. As a mayor, you aren't going to stop kids from growing up to be criminals by getting rid of violent videos. The problem runs much deeper than that. Mayor Peterson would have far more impact on our city's crime rate if he focused on making the Indianapolis Public Schools the best rather than the worst public school system in the country. And if he's really concerned about Columbine-style massacres, he might want to ask Eli Lilly and other pharmaceutical companies why they're pushing psychotic drugs on all our children. No, I guess that wouldn't be politically smart to do that.