Violent games: Read the Daily Bulletin article

I was on furlough/vacation when the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association.

The 7-2 ruling affirmed video games enjoy the same First Amendment protections as cinema, literature and theater while overturning a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors.

Inland Valley Daily Bulletin colleague Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino wrote the following article on the court’s ruling. Her piece first published on www.dailybulletin.com on June 27. Read it after the jump.


By Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino
Staff Writer

Orlando Diaz has seen his fair share of gore while working as a Los Angles County sheriff’s deputy.

But playing graphic video games such as “Grand Theft Auto” proved to be a bit too much even for the seasoned officer.

“I had to put it down,” Diaz of Upland said. “It was
meaningless violence. You’re carjacking people, shooting them point
blank. It just promotes criminal activity. And there are 7- and
8-year-olds playing it. That’s not a good idea.”

But not everyone is on the same page with Diaz. The U.S.
Supreme Court on Monday refused to let California regulate the sale or
rental of violent video games to children, saying governments do not
have the power to “restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed”
despite complaints about graphic violence.

On a 7-2 vote, the high court upheld a federal appeals court
decision to throw out the state’s ban on the sale or rental of violent
video games to minors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Sacramento had ruled that the law violated minors’ rights under the
First Amendment, and the high court agreed.

“No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect
children from harm,” said Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority
opinion. “But that does not include a free-floating power to restrict
the ideas to which children may be exposed.”

The California law would have prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under 18. Retailers who violated the act would have been fined up to $1,000 for each infraction.

More than 46 million American households have at least one
video-game system, with the industry bringing in at least $18 billion in
2010.

Unlike depictions of “sexual conduct,” Scalia said there is no
tradition in the United States of restricting children’s access to
depictions of violence, pointing out the violence in the original
depiction of many popular children’s fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel,
who killed their captor by baking her in an oven, or Cinderella whose
evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves, Scalia said.

“Certainly the books we give children to read – or read to
them when they are younger – contain no shortage of gore,” Scalia added.

But Justice Clarence Thomas, who dissented from the decision
along with Justice Stephen Breyer, said the majority read something into
the U.S. Constitution that is not there.

“The practices and beliefs of the founding generation
establish that `the freedom of speech,’ as originally understood, does
not include a right to speak to minors (or a right of minors to access
speech) without going through the minors’ parents or guardians,” Thomas
wrote.

Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino, said while he was not
surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision, he was disappointed that “the
multibillion dollar video game industry will continue to go unchecked
in its ability to profit from selling heinous depictions of violence and
sex to minors.”

“I have worked to try to curtail violence in video games for
over five years now,” Baca said. “I believe the video game industry has a
responsibility to parents, families, and to consumers – to inform them
of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their
products. Unfortunately, the industry is still not doing enough to
provide parents with accurate information regarding the content of many
games.”

Diaz said he’d prefer more control of who can purchase certain games.

“I have a 12-year-old son, and I wouldn’t want him to be able
to go into a store and grab just any game he wants when I’m not around,”
he said. “DVDs and music CDs have restrictions, so why shouldn’t
games?”

Most parents do not have time to learn about a video game before buying it for their children, Diaz said.

“They just get whatever their kids want,” he said.

Baca agreed. As more scientific research continues to show a
link between playing violent games and increased aggression in young
people, he said, it is important that “families know the truth about
these potentially dangerous products.”

“I continue to sponsor and advocate for legislation in the
House of Representatives that would mandate all video games with a
rating of `Teen’ or higher be sold with a cigarette-style warning label,
citing the health risks of excessive exposure to violent media,” Baca
said.

“My bill does not prevent anyone from buying any video game,
but it does ensure parents are made aware of the detrimental effects
that violent games can have before making decisions on which games are
appropriate for their children to play.”

The Entertainment Merchants Association welcomed the ruling.

“We are gratified that our position that the law violates the
First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of expression has been vindicated
and there now can be no argument whether video games are entitled to
the same protection as books, movies, music and other expressive
entertainment,” said Bo Andersen, president of Encino-based EMA.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.