A news report by the local Louisiana newspaper the Shreveport Times reveals that U.S. District Judge James Brady has extended his previous blocking of the recently passed Louisiana violent game bill from being put into effect.
In addition, according to the newspaper, the judge has asked attorneys in favor of the new legislation to demonstrate exactly how it does not infringe upon the right to free speech, continuing his indications that the bill may end up being permanently blocked.
According to the report, assistant attorney General Burton Guidry and East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Doug Moreau argued that the sale of violent games to minors should be banned in a manner similar to how the state bans as alcohol, tobacco, pornography, as and other such things seen as harmful. However, the judge disagreed, noting, “That’s not speech.”
He added that while some games contain violent content that he feels is “horrible”, that same content is protected by the First Amendment. He noted: “Where is violence not protected” in the First Amendment?
“This is more than speech. This is truly training for violence,” responded Guidry. “You assume the character of a mass murderer. You go out and kill people as violently as you can because you score more points.” He added that video game developers and publishers “cloak themselves in free speech but under that cloak is murder, simulated murder.”
The measure proposed by the Louisiana-specific HB 1381, which was drafted with the help of controversial Florida attorney and anti-game activist Jack Thompson, would allow a judge to rule on whether or not a video game meets established criteria for being inappropriate for minors and be subsequently pulled from store shelves. In addition, a person found guilty of selling such a game to a minor would face fines ranging from $100 to $2,000, plus a prison term of up to one year.
“There is no violence exception in the First Amendment,” noted Paul Smith, attorney for the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). “It doesn’t even come close to justifying censorship. You can’t censor speech because it’s going to lead people to do bad things.” The ESA, along with fellow video game trade association the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) jointly launched a lawsuit against the bill on June 16, the same day it was signed by Governor Kathleen Blanco into law.
According to the newspaper report, Judge Brady indicated that does not see any difference between this law and any of the other similar laws that have been recently thrown out due having been found to be unconstitutional. The judge is expected to issue a ruling next week on whether he will grant a temporary injunction against enforcing the new law.