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Video game makers urged to shun gun industry

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, soon after December’s Newtown school massacre, had said some blame should be put upon a video-game industry that glorifies murder, “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows violence against its own people.”

But what about firearms in video games?

As the video-game industry begins its annual Electronic Entertainment Expo today in Los Angeles, two gun-control groups are calling upon game makers to stop signing lucrative licensing agreements and product-placement deals with gun manufacturers, so that images of actual military-style weapons don’t appear in games.

Battlefield 4A report published today by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and The Gun Truth Project says video games often feature real-world weapons identified by make and model, and have offered cross-promotional opportunities to players to buy them once the game is over.

“We are outraged that video game companies and gun manufacturers are entering into deals to market guns to our children, particularly given the real-life epidemic of gun violence in America,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “The gun industry and their lobbyists have proven time and again that they’re only motive is profit, not encouraging reforms or regulations that would make our children and families safer. To them, our children are pawns to be manipulated for profit.”

Like any other product placement deal, these licensing agreements are meant to increasing the visibility of firearms. One gun industry representative cited in the report said video games provide an opportunity to promote to children, “who are considered possible future owners.”

Yet the report’s authors claim games featuring real-world guns don’t sell any better than games with made-up weapon names – the economic benefit is almost exclusively on the gun manufacturers’ side, the report says.

Redwood City-based Electronic Arts last month announced it will no longer enter into such licensing agreements. “We not only applaud that decision, we are asking the rest of the video game industry to follow suit,” Watts said in a news release. “There is no reason why video game manufacturers should do the gun industry’s dirty work, promoting assault and military-style weapons to our children and teens.”

Actually, EA said it would cut its licensing ties to gunmakers – but continue featuring branded guns without a license.

Watts’ effort to get other companies to sign a pledge is supported by the Every Child Matters Education Fund is supporting the effort. “Thousands of children and teenagers are killed by guns every year,” said fund president Michael Petit. “How any company, knowing that, could continue to market guns to our kids is simply beyond me. It is unacceptable.”

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Lockyer: Pension funds should dump gunmakers

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer wants the state’s gigantic public pension funds to divest themselves of investments in any firearm manufacturer that makes guns banned in California.

Lockyer said Monday that he has asked staff at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to identify all their investments in gun manufacturers. As treasurer, Lockyer sits on both systems’ boards.

The request follows reports that CalSTRS indirectly owns a part of Bushmaster Firearms International, the North Carolina-based maker of the .223-caliber assault rifle that Adam Lanza used in his murderous spree Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Lanza killed 20 children, six adults and himself.

“STRS and PERS should not be investing in any company that makes guns that are illegal in California, especially ones used to kill 20 innocent children and 6 innocent adults,” Lockyer said Monday.

Reuters reports CalSTRS had invested $751.4 million with Cerberus by the end of March 2012, according to its website. Cerberus owns Madison, North Carolina-based Freedom Group Inc., which includes Bushmaster.

Bushmaster’s XM15 line of rifles are specifically banned by California’s assault weapons law.