Rockefeller Pushes Senate Bill Calling for Study of Violent Content

West Virginia senator is making a second attempt to have National Academy of Sciences conduct the study

Sen. Jay Rockefeller is making another attempt to get a National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of violent content — including violent video programming.

The West Virginia Democrat, who has announced he will retire and not seek re-election in 2014, on Thursday reintroduced his “Violent Content Research Act” with bipartisan co-sponsorship from Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Mike Johanns, R-Neb.; Dean Heller, R-Nev.; and Tom Coburn R-Ok.

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While Rockefeller pointed to concerns about TV violence, Johanns also cited the movies.

“Our kids are routinely exposed to movies, television and video games that glorify violence and allow them to simulate violent acts,” Johanns said in a statement. “This legislation will allow us to study what, if any, impact this exposure has on our youth, and if it encourages or desensitizes our children to the real-life consequences of violence.”

Also read: FCC Chief: We Must Reassess Children's TV

Under the legislation, the National Academy would be required to undertake a comprehensive look at whether violent programming and violent video games harm children, either directly by causing kids to act more aggressively or more indirectly.

One focus would be on whether the violent material has a direct and long-lasting impact on a child’s well-being. The bill calls for the study to be done within 15 months and the results reported back to Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Rockefeller originally introduced the call for a study last year, but he has had a long history of concern about violent programming. 

In a statement Thursday, Rockefeller cited the recent incidents of gun violence as the reason for the bill’s reintroduction.

“I’m reintroducing my bill because Congress should do everything we can to address gun violence,” he said. “We need comprehensive policies to fully protect our communities. This study is an important element of this approach.”

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden offered an array of measures on Jan. 16 in response to the Sandy Hook school shootings last month in Connecticut. Among the measures was one that directed the Center for Disease Control to conduct a study of “on the causes and prevention of gun violence, including links between video games, media images, and violence.”

Obama suggested that a law banning the CDC from using money to conduct any research “to advocate or promote gun control” shouldn’t prevent the CDC from conducting research on gun violence, because that research is not gun “advocacy,” and requested $10 million from Congress to pursue the CDC research.