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Gun Lobby's Approach May Create Tension With Technology Advocates

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Manchin, an ardent gun rights supporter who early this week said it was necessary to look at all options, turned his focus to video games later in the week.

Cheryl Olson, co-founder of the Center for Mental Health and Media at Harvard University and co-author of “Grand Theft Childhood,” said that playing violent video games is statistically normal behavior for the 13- and 14-year-old boys she studied through a Department of Justice grant. “When you have a really common behavior,” she said, “it’s hard to link it to something uncommon.”

She added that video-game violence doesn’t approach the level of violence in some movies and even in Grimm’s fairy tales. But more research is needed, she said, particularly on kids who have committed crimes, to determine whether their media exposure is somehow different.

The video-game lobby has a team of outside lobbyists that includes tech-focused firms such as Monument Policy Group and the Franklin Square Group, as well as the Smith-Free Group, Venable and Kilpatrick Stockton, according to lobbying disclosures. The ESA spent $3.6 million on federal lobbying during the first three-quarters of the year, according to lobby reports.

A free speech/gun rights fight could attract a huge groundswell of activists. The NRA is known for its grass-roots outreach, a tool it uses to wield its considerable influence over members of Congress.

But the tech community is fully capable of using supporters to influence a debate, as it did with the largely online backlash to the Stop Internet Piracy Act and similar legislation.

“I do think the same ingredients that caused the perfect storm of SOPA/PIPA are present again,” said Maura Corbett, who runs the tech-focused Glen Echo Group. “Whether the technology players are directly involved or not, they’re able to communicate in real time, and stuff goes viral in a way you’ve never seen.”

If Congress takes up a proposal to ban certain video games or other entertainment content, Rottman noted, a SOPA-style backlash could soon follow.

Janie Lorber contributed to this report.

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