NJ Assemblyman Sean Kean Doubles Down On Bad Video Game Legislation

from the twice-as-stupid-in-half-the-time! dept

To all you politicians out there willingly riding the coattails of a massacre into the Big Book of Bad Legislation: Just. Stop. There's too many of you out there right now using your downtime to Pin the Tail on the Scapegoat with poorly conceived bills that aim to clean up a video game market that, quite frankly, is doing a great job regulating itself.

But if you're someone like Sen. Charles Grassley, Rep. Jim Matheson, CT State Sen. Toni Harp or Rep. Debralee Hovey, something needs to be done about this nonexistent problem, and it needs to be done now. Lots of "something" has already been proposed and, fortunately, most of that "something" will be discarded before it ever becomes law, thanks to the Constitution.

However, if you're someone like NJ Assemblyman Sean T. Kean, you're not going to stop at one "something." No, if you're an inspired go-getter like Kean, you're going to introduce two diametrically opposed video game-related bills, hurl them into the legislative chambers and shout: "Now kiss!"

Here's "something" No. 1:

The first proposal prohibits the sale of any video game with an ESRB rating of “mature” or “adults only” to a person under the age of 18. Violating this law would carry a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense. In addition, the Attorney General would be given the legal authority to issue cease and desist orders against the retailer and award punitive damages to the minor.
Kean is obviously unaware that the video game industry's entirely voluntary ratings system has managed to turn away 87% of underage purchasers. And this is happening without threats, hefty fines or the heavy hand of government intervention. But, as we all have learned over the years, the government simply cannot believe that good things happen without its interference. Politicians' jobs rely on this misconception. And that's how we end up with suggestions legislation like this, one that claims to be "for the children," but is really just the government hanging around outside game retailers with its hand out.

Judging by the impressive size of the fines (and the bizarre award of punitive damages to the minor -- what? getting the game isn't reward enough?), Kean is very serious about keeping "violent, sexually explicit" video games out of the hands (and eyes) of children -- so serious, in fact, that he has introduced another bill, which oddly enough, finds a way to put these M-rated games right back in these kids' hands (and eyes).
Under the second bill, minors would be permitted to purchase video games containing mature and adult content only if their parent or guardian is present during the purchase and gives their consent verbally or in writing at the time of the sale. Penalties for any violations are the same as with the first bill.
Good news, kids! Know someone over the age of 17? Then you too can own any number of "violent, sexually explicit" titles simply by declaring a random 17+ person your "guardian!" It's called a "two-party sale" and it's no different than hitting up the nearest 21-year-old still wearing his high school letter jacket and asking him (or her -- but it's always a him) to pick you up something to drink from the local liquor jobber. More seriously, why is this even needed? Parents have always had the option to purchase M-rated titles for their kids. This just throws additional pressure on the retailers who now have to make a judgement call as to the legitimacy of the adult accompanying the underaged purchaser. Before Kean's meddling, all a retailer had to do was refuse the sale. If this bill makes it through, retailers will be faced with the dubious pleasure of selling M-rated games to minors simply because someone over the age of 17 said it was OK -- and hefty fines if they screw up.

Here's Kean rationalizing these two bills.
“Just as it’s unlawful for minors to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, because it’s detrimental to their well being, the same can be said of adult video games, most of which contain extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer’s eyes and ears,” said Kean. “These two pieces of legislation are intended to protect children.”
While I can appreciate the tiny bit of deference shown towards parents who may feel their children can handle Call of Duty (or just don't care), I'm of the opinion that Kean's much more fond of the first bill than the second. The first is a deterrent with a government-rewarding fine attached that plays right into his "video games hurt children" mindset. The second is lip service towards individual responsibility. If Kean truly cares about individual responsibility, he'd shut up and get out of the way and let a system that is working extremely well continue unimpeded by unnecessary government interference.




Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 7:07am

    This. Takes. The. Cake.

    I mean...how insane do you have to be to say "If the kid does wrong, we're gonna fine the store and give the kid the money!" That would only encourage the kids to do it!


    Okay, so it's long been established that the politicians don't really care about "protecting the children". Why is it that they can't at least do a decent job of pretending to be?
    Oh wait. I just remembered that famous quote from some politician who said that they rarely read the legislation they vote on.

     

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  2.  
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    yaga (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 7:35am

    2 pieces of legislation?

    Not that this is needed at all but if he's proposing it then why couldn't it be in the same bill?

     

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  3.  
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    TaCktiX, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:07am

    Idiocy of the legislation notwithstanding, I feel like politicians are completely ignorant of video game demographics. They think that only children play video games, when the mean age is closer to the mid-20's. It would play into the constant obsession with "for the children" legislation when they aren't even the core market.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:15am

    So the first problem with Something 1 is that it is reliant on the (again, voluntary) ESRB rating system. Selling a game with ESRB rating of Mature or Adults Only to a person under 18 is illegal, but no other distinctions are made. If a game is not rated, or if it is rated by some other board in the future, or if it is given a replacement rating which is called something else but means the same thing (remember the Kids-Adults rating which was supplanted with today's Everyone?), the sale is legal.

    The second, much larger, problem is that awarding punitive damages to minors for such a sale encourages them to deceive the stores into selling them the games. Hey kids! Go to the game store and con your way into buying an M-rated game! Not only will you get the game, but you'll put the store on the hook for breaking the law, and the government will dump a pile of money on you!

    I'm not sure I could pen a more backwards system of incentives if I tried.

     

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  5.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:16am

    If children are playing unsuitable games, you need to ask who is buying them.

    Stores should not be selling these inappropriate games to kids when they are below the age threshold and I cannot see too many stores doing so and jeopardising their business. Even then, I cannot see too many children with their own money and able to buy these games themselves.

    It is the parents buying these games so it is parents who need to accept the responsibility for allowing their children such indulgences.

     

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  6. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:18am

    Industry acts only when under threats.

    The "video game industry's entirely voluntary ratings system" is NOT "entirely voluntary". Minion Cushing blithely ignores that without constant threats from gov't stemming from the obvious public pressure, that "industry" would sell anything to anyone who had cash. These are the sort of societal standards that civilization requires, and we CANNOT leave it up to amoral "free markets".

    Another case of looking at a current complex societal system and claiming that it's working fine and doesn't need gov't interference, when in actuality, it HAS much already and does need it. -- Possibly not more interference, but keeping the pressure on can't harm.

    Such items are a staple on Techdirt because give gamers angst and excuse to wail -- like ankle-biters who are actually protected inside fenced yards from the many types of dangers outside it.

     

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  7.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:20am

    Additional rationalizing

    Here's Kean rationalizing these two bills.

    “Just as it’s unlawful for minors to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, because it’s detrimental to their well being, the same can be said of adult video games, most of which contain extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer’s eyes and ears,” said Kean. “These two pieces of legislation are intended to protect children.”

    I would like to point out that High School also contains extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer’s eyes and ears. So if you want to protect the children, then keep them out of high school and safe at home playing video games. This third item is at least as good for the children and for society as the first two pieces of legislation.

    Thank you legislators for considering this legislation on this fine early day in April.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:20am

    the Attorney General would be given the legal authority to issue cease and desist orders against the retailer and award punitive damages to the minor.

    Either its the date, (the name Sean Kean iis good), or its a cunning plan to put games retaillers out of business by encouraging minors to break the law for rewards.

     

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  9.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:22am

    Re:

    Politicians also rarely read the legislation they introduce or sponsor. As long as the check clears.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:31am

    And in one swoop, piracy solves all the issues. Again.

     

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  11.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:33am

    Re: Industry acts only when under threats.

    So your entire spiel can be summed up as "They listened to what the market wanted and gave accordingly".

    And somehow...they're at fault for that?

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:40am

    Re: Industry acts only when under threats.

    Never mind the fact that the Industry has been voluntarily rating itself since about 1993 (even before ESRB).

    I get it. You hate big companies. But in this case, the "free market" actually did something right.

    DON'T. RUIN. IT.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:43am

    Re: Industry acts only when under threats.

    You seem to have a lot of theories about TechDirt's readership demographic, variously calling us all 'gamers' or 'pirates' or whatever strikes your fancy at the moment. I'm very curious as to what your own role is here, continually showing up and spouting tangential nonsense - personally, "village idiot" isn't a title I'd want attached to my name, but to each his own I guess.

     

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  14.  
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    Michael, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:44am

    award punitive damages to the minor

    Fantastic idea! Prenda Law was looking for a new niche! With this as law, they will be able to send legal threats to video game retailers to pay up because they have evidence that a child has purchased an M rated game! Now they can troll the legal system AND PROTECT THE CHILDREN!

    Dear Retailer,

    It has come to our attention that you have sold a video game rated Mature to our underage client Alan Cooper. We are representing him in this matter because we feel your behavior has been deplorable. Although we know you have done this before, we are willing to accept a $10,000 settlement for this offence even though the maximum penalty for such acts is $20,000.

    Please mail your check immediately.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:46am

    'will be discarded before it ever becomes law, thanks to the Constitution'

    most of the time, the entertainment industries, with the permission of the courts, are allowed to ignore the Constitution. in another 10 years or so, the constitution wont exist, all thanks to Hollywood and their opos!

    the only reason he's trying to do something like this is to justify the salary he's being paid. he obviously hasn't got the sense of a rockin' horse and those that voted for him are no better! always makes me wonder what else would be banned, prohibited or what have you if it was possible. someone always wants to force their opinions on to others, but never want to take on board what others have to say!

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:46am

    Re: Additional rationalizing

    This is an astoundingly good point - I doubt any of these "think of the children" fools have set foot in a public school in the last decade. I've heard strings of cuss words from elementary school students that would make a foul-mouthed trucker sob for the future of humanity.

    Children are our future (and all that kitschy, bumper-sticker crap) but over-regulation of the media is completely missing the point.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 8:46am

    I was harmed by a video game store selling me a video game for $30, I deserve $10,000 in compensation.

    *a few weeks later*

    I was harmed by 333 video game stores selling me a video game for roughly $30, I deserve $20,000 from each of them (or $666,000) in compensation.

    *a few weeks later*

    I was harmed by 222,000 video game stores selling me a video game for roughly $30, I deserve $20,000 from each of them (or $4,440,000,000) in compensation.

    *a few weeks later*

    I was harmed by NJ Assemblyman Sean T. Kean, thanks to him no more video game stores exist, and everyone hates me. Whatever will I do with my $4,440,000,000 for the rest of my life?

     

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  18.  
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    matt C, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:06am

    Yay! two more reasons for parents to not give a rats ass about what their kids are doing.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:18am

    I think we missed the point of these bills

    This isn't stupid unintentionally. This is to ratchet up the liability for merchants to offer Mature rated games for sale. Damned if they do, damned if they don't, and damned if they won't be paying through the nose either way.

     

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  20.  
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    avideogameplayer, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:32am

    Instead of taking away the video games, why don't we first stop showing unrealistic depictions of violence on the little and big screen?

    We wouldn't have this issue if we weren't trying to feed our kids a daily dose of violence at every turn...

    And they wonder why our kids are growing up screwed in the head...

    We have gave up parental resposibilities to television, movies and the internet...

    PARENTS: GET INVOLVED!

    Or get sterlized...

     

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  21.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:44am

    If Call of Duty has taught me one thing, it's when you are in a combat situation against a real human being, it's ridiculously easy to die. I'd say it's a pretty good influence.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 9:52am

    Punitive award to the minor

    This is clearly an attempt to get kids to do the policing for them, by trying to buy video games, and then turning them over to the feds for a lump of cash.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:01am

    New video game pricing structure...

    Call of Duty 28 - $20,060 On sale with photo id for only $60!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:05am

    If he really cared about children, he wouldn't have let Elizabeth "Snooki" Polizzi become a parent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:07am

    Re: Industry acts only when under threats.

    There are stupid posts here in Techdirt and then there are your posts, which i lack the knowledge of words to say how stupid, idiotic and moronic they are.

    I have to acknowledge that being such an idiot like you requires both EFFORT and a NATURAL ability.

    Anyways, please do continue to post your idiotic statements. I laugh a lot at the idiocy you display and how the other people mock the s**t out of you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
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    TaCktiX, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:12am

    Re: I think we missed the point of these bills

    But the problem is that it's adding regulation where none is needed. It's additional oversight when the industry itself is already doing a more than adequate job.

    As the linked article to 87% denied states, the FCC does the secret shopping, NOT the ESRB or any other gaming retailer. The oversight is already there and is already working, no more regulation is needed.

    That is why the bill is stupid and wasteful.

     

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  27.  
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    DSchneider (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:30am

    Can't have it both ways

    It's so detrimental to children we must prevent them from seeing it, unless according to the second bill, their parents get it for them. I look forward to his followup bills where cigarettes, alcohol, and porn are now ok for children as long as their parent or guardian purchases it for them.

     

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  28.  
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    Murray (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 10:47am

    "Just as it’s unlawful for minors to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, because it’s detrimental to their well being..."

    Is his next bill going to allow the sale of alcohol and cigarettes to minors if they are accompanied by a parent to give their approval?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
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    Digitari, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:07am

    Re: Can't have it both ways

    You mean your parents didn't get them for you???


    My GrandMother sent me a 6-pack of bud for my 10th Birthday thru the mail, to this day I STILL don't drink alcohol

     

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  30.  
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    Digitari, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:09am

    Political Logic

    "How can I take credit for something that already works if I don't pass a bill to make it worse?"

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: I think we missed the point of these bills

    I don't disagree with you, I'm just pointing out what seems to me to be the strategy involved.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:16am

    Speaking of Prenda Law . . .

    Isn't the Prenda Law fiasco up before judge Wright tomorrow?

    I think he scheduled it for April 2, because otherwise, nobody would have taken the court proceedings seriously in light of Prenda's past comical performances.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:19am

    Re:

    > fortunately, most of that "something" will be discarded
    > before it ever becomes law, thanks to the Constitution.

    fortunately, most of the Constitution will be discarded
    before it ever affects this law, thanks to the Congress.

     

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  34.  
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    DannyB (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:21am

    Re:

    Sir, you should apply for employment at Prenda Law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 1st, 2013 @ 11:51am

    Re:

    Pshaw, maybe if you're a worthless n00b. If I'm ever in a combat situation I'll be doing all kinds of crazy 360-spin noscope headshots, obviously.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re:

    If Call of Duty has taught me one thing, it's that I'm a worthless n00b.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    gorehound (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 1:14pm

    Time for some of those great Modders out there to make us some cool Mass Effect Mods that can put the faces of the asshole politicians onto the Illusive Man's Body !

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Apr 1st, 2013 @ 1:38pm

    He's trying to support individual responsibility by mandating it with nanny-state laws?

    Brain... cramping...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
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    DeadBolt (profile), Apr 2nd, 2013 @ 1:09am

    In the words of Kirk Lazarus:
    You went full retard, man. Never go full retard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    NaBUru38 (profile), Apr 2nd, 2013 @ 1:29pm

    That's how it's the law in Uruguay: minor can't watch films rated 18+ alone, but they can if accompanied by an adult. Same for films 15+, 12+ and 9+. Anyway, GI Joe and Die Hard 5 are 9+, and only Tarantino-level films get 15+.

    It does make sense to me. Anyway, the Supreme Court said that a similar Californa law for videogames was inconstitutional because it restricted freedom of speech, that it, minors were prevented from access to speech. The same will happen here.

     

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  41.  
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    Bergman (profile), Apr 7th, 2013 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Additional rationalizing

    Life itself also contains content and situations inappropriate for children's eyes and ears.

    Does this mean we should expect a bill calling for children to be proactively euthanized to keep them from encountering life at some future date?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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