Missouri has become the latest U.S. state to consider anti-games legislation, with Democrat representative Jeff Harris demonstrating a video montage of violent video game clips to the state House Crime Committee.
Harris’ bill would make it a misdemeanor to sell or rent violent video games to minors, with fines of up to $5,000 for anyone breaking the proposed law. Retailers would also be required to post signs explaining the ESRB ratings system and provide brochures to the same effect.
“I’m just sick and tired of some of the excesses of popular culture as they affect kids,” Harris, the House Democratic leader, said in interview quoted by the Missourian newspaper. “This bill gives parents a helping hand in combating the excesses.”
Although Republicans control the Missouri House, the Columbia Democrat’s proposal got supportive words from the committee chair, with Republican committee chair Scott Lipke commenting, “That’s the first time I’ve seen anything like that … I think any kind of legislation that aims to protect our children is certainly worth taking a hard look at. We need to keep those types of games out of the hands of our kids.”
Lipke’s main concern with the bill was its insistence that ignorance of the law and the ratings system could not be used in cases where a minor is sold a violent or sexually explicit game without having proof of age verified.
Bruce Bartholow, assistant professor of psychology at Missouri University – which recently produced one of the only studies to suggest a causal link between video games and real-world violence
, testified in support of the bill. “I think it’s a good idea to limit the extent to which young kids are exposed to violent video games based not only on my research but lots of other research,” he said in an earlier interview.
John Britton, the Missouri lobbyist for the Entertainment Software Association, claimed that the bill is unconstitutional, pointing out the long list of similar bills in other states that have all failed due to first amendment concerns.