California law on violent games 'unconstitutional' yet again

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, in 2005 California politicians passed a law that would put onerous limits on the video-gaming industry, seeking to impose severe restrictions upon their availability by making it a crime for a vendor to sell content rated under the state scheme as "18" to minors.

In spite of Governor Schwarzenegger's support for the law, these "think of the children" legislators have been slapped down a second time in court on the grounds that the law is unconstitutional. Confirming a lower court's ruiling, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals concludes that "[t]he government may not restrict speech in order to control a minor's thoughts." Although the state has the legal capacity to police the sale of "obscenity", the traditional definition of "obscenity" focuses on sexual content, and courts have shown a hesitancy to expand "obscenity" beyond the realm of sex and into that of violence.

Leeland Yee, author of the original bill (AB1179), has now called for the case to be reviewed by the US Supreme Court, saying, "While I am deeply disappointed in... [the current] ruling, we should not stop our efforts to assist parents in keeping these harmful video games out of the hands of children. I believe this law will inevitably be upheld as Constitutional by the US Supreme Court."

The battle against violent video games is a long-standing one. It has raised its ugly head in a number of American states, including Michigan, Minnesota, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. Each time such moves have met with the same judicial resistance: they are unconstitutional.

The argument here typically goes something like this, taken from the ruling of the United States District Court, Minnesota, "First, it asserts an interest in protecting the psychological well-being of minors; second, it claims the Act [to limit the availability of such games] fosters children's moral and ethical development."

The American Constitution's first amendment, however, holds that "Congress [and, by extension, state legislative bodies] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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13 Comments

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This unfortunately is true. I think it's because some people are afraid about their own ability to respect their own limits and their own capacity to control themselves, so they think everyone else should be forced to suffer under their self-imposed limits for their own failures or fears. Why should their problems with self-control become my problems? Why should their definitions of what is right and proper become my definitions of what is right and proper?

It will be a sad day in American history when we are forced to relinquish our ability to parenting our children. While I believe that children should not be exposed to certain things, it should not be up to the government to decide. If I don't want my kids exposed to violence, it should be my responsibility to make sure they don't see it, not Uncle Sam using taxpayer dollars.

That's great (no sarcasm) but unfortunately you are a minority. Too many parents either don't care or aren't involved enough and let their kids watch whatever they want and play whatever games they want. That's why the government has to step in sometimes.

There's really no reason for kids to be playing 18+ games anyway.

I'm not sure about other stores, but I've worked at both Target and Walmart, and at both stores, it is company policy to not sell M rated games to anyone under 17 without parental consent (i.e. the parent has to be present and informed that the game is for mature audiences). Of course, there are always those cashiers that don't bother to check ID, but that is the same for just about anything (tobacco, alcohol, guns, etc.).

I think the difference is that the ESRB ratings are just "suggestions". Individual companies decide how they want to deal with them. They don't technically have the force of law. The "18" scheme in the 2005 California law was meant to make such censorship mandatory, but it's been declared unconstitutional....

He definately is doing this for money. If they ban M rated games then it hurts the sales of any future action movies that get turned into games tha he may star in after his term as governer is up. Personally I think the whole ban thing is stupid because parents dont know how to parent, thats what this has been about since day one.

A quote or something to give a idea how he is stepping in would have been good.

Also what is it the bill is looking to do stop the sale of games over M rated? or make it so you have to be 18-21 to buy them??