Social media, video games focus of state Senate hearing on mass violence

The hearing Wednesday before members of the Senate Select Committee on Mass Violence got underway with a few important no shows.

"I don’t want to call people out, but if they are not here by, on December 4th, I promise you we will be talking about their names and who they are,” said committee chair and state Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston).

Huffman indicated those not attending were social media companies and she had a warning for them.

"As I said, we may compel participation,” said Huffman.

Doing that, according to Huffman, may involve a subpoena.

"I will get them here and we will get them here, with the support of the committee,” said Huffman.

Representatives from Facebook and Google did take part in a roundtable discussion with Governor Greg Abbott a few months ago. The Governor claimed the two companies agreed to help identify threats, but on Wednesday DPS director Steven McCraw testified he is still waiting.

RELATED: Texas lawmakers work to prevent mass violence

"We know they have the capabilities to identify threats, we know that, they've reported threats to us, they just wouldn't tell us who and from. And it was not very helpful,” said McCraw.

The committee also discussed the possible influence of violent video games. How they may or may not be linked to mass attacks is a controversial topic. The problem, according to state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), video games are classified as protected speech.

"And everything we do must be consistent with constitutional rights, of everyone involved. And we keep quoting the Supreme Court, and the findings of the Supreme Court including when they said these studies were not prerelative enough to support legal restrictions,” said Zaffirini.

In response to that, Dr. Tau Braun, a violence prevention specialist, compared video games to the type of marketing done by big tobacco.

"Now you pair that with what is the mission we are doing, and going to do, on a game like Fortnite? Kill. So to not to understand that these are killing simulators, and that’s the worth the moms around the country can do, they can say, enough, not on my watch,” said Braun.

The focus, according to Braun, should be on identifying those who are susceptible to outside influence.

"A similar concept runs from everything like gambling to risk-taking in sports, we certainly do not stop anybody from doing something that the masses would have no negative impact, but we do have to ask ourselves who is vulnerable to that traumatic exposure,” said Braun.

Bruan didn't push for legislative change but for cultural change. The next hearing is expected to build on that idea with mental health on the agenda.

Gun control advocates wanted more.

"We know the problem is not violent video games, and it’s not people wearing masks, it’s not really even a mental health issue, the gun violence problem in America and in Texas is caused by easy access to guns by people who want to do harm to themselves or others. and we are not talking about that today,” said Hilary Whitfield with Moms Demand Action -TX. 

The committee was told background checks will be a topic for discussion for the next hearing.