California Democrat Joe Baca
has introduced legislation
to the U.S. House of Representatives that would make it crime for retailers to sell or rent video games to minors which depict violent or sexual acts.
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Baca’s legislation, dubbed, The Protect Children from Video Game Sex and Violence Act of 2002, was put forth only a few days after a U.S. District Court judge ruled that video games are not a constitutionally protected form of free speech. That judge upheld an ordinance in St. Louis, Mo. that requires parental consent before minors can purchase graphically violent or sexually explicit video games.
Baca referenced student shootings in Colorado and Germany when he said, “I’m a parent and grandparent, and I’ve had enough of the violence we’re experiencing among our youth … Parents have to take responsibility for their children and monitor where they are learning their behavior from, but stores have a community responsibility to help keep kids from harmful material as well.”
In a statement announcing the legislation, Baca’s office also made reference to various studies that apparently correlate violent behavior in children with their participation in video games. No specific citations were presented, but Baca’s position was definitive: “Video games’ constant, addictive nature also plays a role in aggressive behavior,” said the statement.
Many computer and video game retailers already restrict the sale or rental of “Mature” or “Adults Only”-rated software specifically to adult customers. The
Entertainment Software Ratings Board
(ESRB) already helps in this regard. An independent, non-profit organization, the ESRB developed and maintains a comprehensive ratings system for computer and video games used by major game publishers. Ratings range from Early Childhood (EC) to Adults Only (AO). In addition to the ratings themselves, packages include content descriptions, which more fully specify what each game contains.
Baca’s legislation would impose penalties on retailers and rental companies who provide minors with access to video games that depict:
Decapitation, amputation, dismemberment or mutilation
The killing of human beings by the use of an object as a lethal weapon or hand to hand fighting
The car jacking of a vehicle
Rape or other sexual assault and prostitution
Aggravated assault or battery
Other violent felonies
Congressman Baca represents California’s 42nd District, which includes most of San Bernardino, as well as Colton, Grand Terrace, Rialto, Fontana, Bloomington, Rancho Cucamonga, and parts of Highland and Ontario.
“The courts have finally decided what every parent already knows — that video games containing ultra violent depictions of murder, rape, and assault have no place in the hands of our children,” said Baca.