Supreme Court to Take Up Sale of Violent Video Games to Minors

Article excerpt

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of a ban on the sale of violent video games to minors by the state of California.

The US Supreme Court on Monday agreed to examine the constitutionality of a California ban on the sale and rental of violent video games to minors.

The justices agreed to take up Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's appeal of a federal court decision striking down the state-enacted restrictions. A federal judge and the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that children and teens have a First Amendment right to purchase and play violent video games.

The action came less than a week after the high court voted 8 to 1 to strike down a federal law banning depictions of animal cruelty - including dogfights and videos of animals being tortured - because the justices said the law was substantially overbroad and could criminalize innocent conduct like possession of hunting magazines and videos.

At issue in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association is a 2005 state law that sought to restrict the sale and rental of violent video games to those who are at least 18 years old. The law mandated that violent video games carry a large "18" on the packaging to notify store clerks, buyers, and parents that the product contained restricted material.

A federal judge described the content of one violent video game, "Postal II," that he said would have been subject to the pre-18 ban. The game allows players to "go postal" and kill everyone they encounter - police officers, unarmed bystanders, even schoolgirls.

"Girls attacked with a shovel will beg for mercy; the player can be merciless and decapitate them," wrote US District Judge Ronald Whyte. "People shot in the leg will fall down and crawl; the player can then pour gasoline over them, set them on fire, and urinate on them. The player's character makes sardonic comments during all this; for example, urinating on someone elicits the comment, 'Now the flowers will grow.' "

Supporters of the California ban argue that violent video games are harmful to children and teens. Some teens become addicted to the games, they say. Just as states may restrict access by minors to pornography, tobacco products, alcohol, and gambling, states must have authority to restrict access to violent video games, they argue.

"The corruption of our nation's youth with increasingly deviant video games is a matter of national importance," wrote Andrew Schlafly of the conservative group Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense in a friend of the court brief urging the high court to take up the case.

"The First Amendment does not render our nation's youth defenseless against the predatory, billion-dollar video game industry that churns out increasingly graphic blood and gore for impressionable minds to imbibe," he wrote. …