In the wake of two mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend, a small group of advocates gathered in front of Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s Office in Bakersfield on Thursday to urge the house minority leader to back gun reform laws.
“We’re demanding that he move on behalf of our families, those that are mourning, those that continue to be threatened, those that continue to be hunted in our areas,” Trena Turner, executive director of Faith in the Valley, said during a press conference. “It is absolutely unacceptable, for our elected officials to use their platforms carelessly, to release rhetoric, hatred, opinions that are not based in fact, that’s not supported in research.”
While gun reform laws stayed in the foreground, statements McCarthy made during a Fox News interview sometimes took center stage during the event.
The comments, said during an interview with Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures, appeared to blame video games in part for violent outbursts.
McCarthy's office, however, released a statement which partially backpedaled his response to a question about the impact of social media and video games on mass shooting perpetrators.
“Earlier this week, the congressman spoke about the shootings. Some of his comments were grossly misinterpreted — he specifically did not blame the tragedies on video games like some are suggesting,” the statement read. “In fact, he was clear they were driven by individuals filled with hate and evil. The congressman also stressed the importance of having the authorities gather all the facts, so we can stop tragedies from happening again in the future.”
While McCarthy did say he wanted to wait until all the facts had been gathered, and he stressed the importance of early warning signs as possible indications of mass shootings, he also linked video games to violent actions during the interview, which is available online.
“The idea of these video games to dehumanize individuals — to have a game of shooting individuals and others — I’ve always felt that is a problem for future generations and others,” he said during the interview. “We’ve watched from studies, shown before, of what it does to individuals. When you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”
Most experts agree that video games do not cause violence, and on Thursday, activists pointed to an article published by Vox, which showed far fewer violent gun deaths in countries that spend more on video games per person than the U.S.
But video games were only part of Thursday's conversation.
Advocates urged McCarthy to support bills passed by the House of Representatives in February that would require background checks for person-to-person transfers of firearms and extend the amount of time firearm dealers must wait for a background check to finish. In February, the congressman voted against the bills.
“We want (McCarthy) to talk to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to take some of this legislation, and bring it to a full vote in the senate,” said civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, whose foundation organized the press conference. “It is time that we say to Kevin McCarthy, you are the minority leader of the Republican House of Representatives, we are calling upon you to finally do something about this epidemic of shootings that we have in our communities.”
In a statement, McCarthy’s office welcomed the comments made at the congressman’s doorstep.
“There is no question last weekend was a painful time in our nation,” the statement read. “Families and loved ones are left grieving and Americans everywhere were rocked by the horrific tragedy.”