In the wake of the Sandy Hook Massacre, Vice President Joe Biden met with representatives of the motion picture and video game industry as part of the White House offensive on gun violence and the NRA denounced a video game.

Now other bills have cropped up around the country. Including one which would put a 1% on any game rated teen, mature, or adults only; and another which would prohibit the sale of teen, mature, or adult only games to minors. Even though the ESRB Teen rating is 13 and up.

Do Restrictions on Video Games Violate Free Speech?

Back in 2011 the Supreme Court struck down a California ban on selling or renting violent video games to minors. The case is known as Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.

The court held, “Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium…. Legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test.”

According to scotusblog.com, “Most of the justices treated the California measure as too broad and thus, if upheld, serving as an invitation to go after violence in movies and cartoons, books and comic books, and virtually every other medium of expression.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “If you are supposing a category of violent materials dangerous to children, then how do you cut it off at video games? What about films? What about comic books? Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Why are video games special?”

The majority opinion goes on to say that the law did not meet the strict scrutiny standard. The psychological studies brought forth as evidence in favor of the law did “not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media. Since California has declined to restrict those other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, its video-game regulation is wildly under inclusive, raising serious doubts about whether the State is pursuing the interest it invokes or is instead disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint.”

It was further noted that “California also cannot show that the Act's restrictions meet the alleged substantial need of parents who wish to restrict their children's access to violent videos. The video-game industry's voluntary rating system already accomplishes that to a large extent. Moreover, as a means of assisting parents the Act is greatly over inclusive, since not all of the children who are prohibited from purchasing violent video games have parents who disapprove of their doing so.”

What do you think?

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