Connecticut Town Cancels Video Game Buyback Program That Was A Response to Newtown Shootings

The good folks at GamePolitics report that a planned effort to get Connecticut residents to turn in their violent video games has been cancelled:

Last week SouthingtonSOS, a group comprised of Southington, Connecticut community organizations announced a violent videogame buyback program, where citizens could deposit violent games into what basically amounted to a trash bin for a gift certificate provided by local merchants. Those game discs would be snapped and tossed in the trash…

The idea of the program was to get parents and children to throw away their violent video games – which some in the small Connecticut town felt were a factor in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December. The program had plenty of support locally including the Southington chamber of commerce, the local YMCA, the board of education, fire department, a number of the town’s officials, the United Way and local clergy.

But in the days following the announcement of the program some experts were critical of the idea; the parenting editor at Common Sense Media likened the collection and destruction of video games to censorship, and Texas A&M International University researcher Christopher J. Ferguson wrote the group warning them that their efforts might cause more harm than good. Many editorial writers and advocates saw the buyback program as the equivalent of an old time book burning. With all that pressure, the group decided that they would not host the Buyback program after all this week.

It doesn’t surprise me that someone would propose an event to destroy video games. The idea that violent media is to blame for real-world violence in general or mass shootings in particular crops up after every spree killing, and it’s been helped along in this case by the National Rifle Association, which has throw popular culture into the debate in the hopes that it’ll be distracting chum to piranhas hungry for scapegoats but reluctant to fight difficult battles to make America safer. And there’s always someone willing to burn books, or melt down records, or snap discs in half in response to a slight.

What disappoints me more is the businesses and other organizations who threw in behind the plan. I understand that people want to do something. But there are more substantive, and creative, ways to help. How about offering those gift certificates to the families of Newtown police officers, or offering counseling, or to raise money for counseling, or offer pastoral care to the families of children were, or still are, students at Sandy Hook Elementary? Blaming the media isn’t just a dodge from meaningful policy solutions. In this case, it’s sad to think of businesses and community organizations focusing their efforts on a showy video game buyback plan instead of finding ways to be of direct service to the families and communities who were harmed by actual violence.