Rep. Wolf criticizes Obama for ignoring mental health, media violence in State of the Union

Wolf also criticized President Obama for ignoring mental health and media issues while saying that victims of mass shootings, such as former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and the children of Sandy Hook, deserved a vote on gun control proposals.

“How can he in good conscience call for that, but not acknowledge the fact that each one of the shooters in those events was mentally disturbed? How could he not acknowledge the role that violent media played in some of their lives?” said Wolf, chairman of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) subcommittee.

In his State of the Union address, Obama called on Congress to hold a vote on gun control measures he proposed last month, including an assault weapons ban, universal background checks and limits of high-ammunition magazines. He cited the Newtown, Conn., elementary school massacre and the shooting in Chicago of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton. 

"I know this is not the first time this country has debated how to reduce gun violence. But this time is different," Obama said. 

"In the two months since Newtown, more than a thousand birthdays, graduations, anniversaries have been stolen from our lives by a bullet from a gun — more than a thousand."

Victims of gun violence in America "deserve a simple vote," Obama said. 

But Wolf argues Obama and Congress must focus on more than just access to guns. 

He released a 41-page report from the National Science Foundation titled “Youth Violence: What We Need To Know,” arguing that its conclusions supported his belief that mass shootings result from several factors, including access to firearms, mental health issues and exposure to violent media.

The report will be the subject of a subcommittee hearing this spring, Wolf said in a statement. 

Wolf has previously co-sponsored legislation that would direct the Federal Trade Commission to review the effectiveness of the current video game ratings system, and would require the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the impact of violent, sexually explicit video games on children. 

He is also considering legislation that would require video games to reduce realism through the use of less-realistic images, such as replacing red-colored blood with blue.

Such measures are already in place in Europe in countries like Germany, which has strict standards on the level of violence allowed in games.

One study in the report called for evaluating the benefits of a universal ratings system with increased labeling, arguing that the current multitude of systems “have not kept up with the increasingly violent content of popular media.”

The study contrasted the distinct television, app, movie, music and game ratings systems in the United States with the Pan European Game Information system, which uses a single age-based scale and easily recognizable symbols.

Exposure to violent media is “one of the easiest risk factors to change,” the study said.