It seems like a hardly a day goes by without someone, somewhere proposing some sort of legislation to regulate video games. The latest (but certainly not the last) legislation comes to us courtesy of Connecticut State Senator Toni Harp. Entitled "An Act Concerning Minors and Violent Point-and-Shoot Video Games
," Harp's bill seeks to ban minors from operating violent video games in public. More specifically, it seeks to take the play guns out of kids' hands, while presumably leaving them free to de-spine each other at the Mortal Kombat upright.
(b) No owner or operator of any public establishment or amusement arcade shall allow any individual under eighteen years of age to operate a violent point-and-shoot video game on the premises of such establishment or arcade.
The offending devices that may not be pointed-and-shot by minors are as follows:
(a) For purposes of this section, "facsimile of a firearm" means (1) any imitation of a firearm, as defined in subdivision (19) of section 53a-3 of the general statutes, which was manufactured, designed and produced since 1898, or (2) any representation of a firearm, other than an imitation of an original firearm, that a reasonable person would understand was intended to depict a weapon of violence; and "violent point-and-shoot video game" means any electronic gaming device that utilizes a facsimile of a firearm as an essential component of game play.
This rules out such offenders as House of the Dead
and Area 51
, but also other, non-human-killing games like Jurassic Park
, Big Buck Hunter
, Nintendo's Duck Hunt
(for arcades with a retro vibe) and, presumably, Michael Cimino's Deer Hunter Arcade
If a public establishment does allow the under-18 crowd to start pointing-and-shooting, there will
Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (b) of this section shall have committed an infraction.
(..and will have to go sit in the corner for a 15-minute "time out" or serve as the sole host of a child's birthday party, whichever is more severe. Six infractions in six months will result in the offender becoming a permanent member of the Chuck E. Cheese animatronic band.)
Presumably, the real fines/jail time/conversion to a cyborg trapped in kids' birthday hell will be added to the bill at a future date. But there's more to this bill than disarming teens and tweens. Senator Harp has also borrowed a bit from the President's call for a study
of the link between violent media (including violent video games) and actual violence. Harp's version, however, gets rid of anything related to "violent media" and concentrates solely on video games.
Sec. 2. (Effective October 1, 2013) (a) There is established a Violent Video Game Task Force within the Department of Children and Families to study the effects of violent video games on youth behavior...
(b) The Violent Video Game Task Force shall: (1) Study the effects of violent video games on youth behavior; (2) make recommendations to the General Assembly and the Governor for new or enhanced policies to address the findings of the task force; (3) gather and maintain current information regarding violent video games that can be used to better understand the impact of violent video games on youth behavior; and (4) advise the General Assembly and Governor concerning the coordination and administration of state programs that may reduce the effects of violent video games on youth behavior.
Here's the kicker, though:
(c) Not later than October 1, 2014, the task force shall submit in accordance with the provisions of section 11-4a of the general statutes a report to the General Assembly and the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to children specifying the task force's findings and recommendations pursuant to subsection (b) of this section.
That's right. The bill will first
enact a blanket ban on shooting games (using "point-and-shoot" gun "facsimiles") and then
start looking into the question of whether or not there's a connection between violent arcade games and violence. It's almost literally a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach (except without the shooting). All this bill does is present a foregone conclusion and ask for it to be preemptively enforced. The statement of purpose doesn't even try to hide this fact:
To prevent minors from using violent point-and-shoot video games in public arcades and to create a task force to study the effects of violent video games on youth behavior.
In Harper's mind (and bill), the facts, whatever they may be, simply do not
matter. Kids are forbidden from playing "gun games" in public. Full stop. Why even bother proposing a study? She's already made her decision. This is the kind of baseline, weightless lip service that makes regular glad-handing, fundraising lip service look sincere and upstanding.
Even the wording for the "study" itself forces me to throw scare quotes around the word: "gather... information... that can be used to better understand the impact of violent video games on youth behavior." It's accepted that there's an "impact." "Coordination and administration of state programs that may reduce the effects of violent video game on youth behavior." Again, 100% chance there's an "effect," so let's work to "reduce" it.
I don't have a problem with someone commissioning a study on the connection between violent video games and acts of violence. But when someone starts with a ban and then stacks the deck to justify a ridiculous ban, it's only going to return the results the commissioning politician is looking for. If it doesn't, it will simply be back-burnered until the public eye is distracted elsewhere.