Menino: Ban violent vid games for kids
March 17, 2008
Fed up with violent video games in the hands of children, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino wants to outlaw sales of the bloody games to minors, a controversial crackdown plan that’s already drawing the ire of teen players and the gaming industry.
“Children aged 17 and under should not be sold this stuff, so they are not getting into the hands of 9- and 10-year-olds,” said Larry Mayes, Menino’s chief of human services.
“Is it going to be an uphill battle? Sure. But it’s absolutely a battle that the mayor feels he should take on.”
Gaming advocates are ready to fight back, blasting Menino’s move as “unconstitutional” and citing nine federal court decisions that have rejected similar bids in recent years.
“Every time states have tried to restrict access to First Amendment-protected material, it has been considered unconstitutional,” said Dan Hewitt, spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association , which represents the U.S. computer and video gaming industry.
Menino’s bold move comes as Boston and Brockton are dealing with much bloodshed on city streets, with the Hub recording 13 murders so far this year. Brockton has seen four killings and scores of shootings. Most of the victims in both cities are teenagers.
“I think this legislation is a good idea. I don’t want this constant barrage of violence on young minds and for them to think it is all right,” said state Rep. Christine E. Canavan (D-Brockton), a co-sponsor of the petition that will be heard at the Joint Committee on Judiciary tomorrow at the State House.
Louisiana’s attempt to ban the sale of violent video games to minors was stopped in November 2006, when District Court Judge James Brady ordered a permanent injunction to block implementation of the statute.
In his judgment, Brady said video games are “as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature.”
Although it is illegal for retailers to sell or rent any pornographic or obscene material to minors, there is no law that bans the sale to minors of movies, books or music with violent content.
Dennis McCauley, editor of GamePolitics.com, a blog for the gamer advocate Entertainment Consumers’ Association, also criticized Menino’s proposal.
“There is no other form of media that is restricted in this way,” he said.
“We don’t believe that a 10-year-old should be playing Grand Theft Auto, but it really is the parent’s responsibility to decide what the child should and shouldn’t play.”
Young gamer Robert Connelly, 11, of Scituate, said video games are hugely popular among his friends, but not all the kids play the gory games.
Restricting their right to make that choice would enrage teens, he said.
“I would be very frustrated,” Connelly said.
“A lot of people under 18, 16- and 17-year-olds, would be really angry.”