By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments this fall from both sides in a legal battle over whether states can ban the sale of violent video games to minors.
The Associated Press is reporting that the justices agreed Monday to consider reinstating a statewide ban put in place by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 that was thrown on last year by the ultra-liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on the grounds that it violated the constitutional rights of minors.
Commenting on the high Court’s decision to hear the case, Gov Schwarzenegger said: “We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies.”
California’s law prohibits the sale or rental of violent games – those that include “killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” – to anyone under 18, the AP reports. It also creates strict labeling requirements for video game manufacturers. Fines of up to $1,000 per violation could be imposed on retailers who fail to uphold the law.
Opponents of the law argue that video games already contain a rating system for parents, and say that games are protected forms of expression under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
However, supporters of the law say that the Supreme Court has upheld laws preventing the sale of pornography, alcohol and tobacco to minors. They also point out that the California law is narrowly written in that it does not restrict parents from buying games for their children.
California lawmakers passed the law partly on the basis of studies that suggested a link between violent games and aggression, anti-social behavior and desensitization to violence in children; however, the federal judges who overturned the ban dismissed that research.
“None of the research establishes or suggests a causal link between minors playing violent video games and actual psychological or neurological harm, and inferences to that effect would not be reasonable,” Judge Consuelo Callahan said in the 9th Circuit ruling.
The law has never taken effect, and was challenged shortly after it was signed by Schwarzenegger. A U.S. District Court blocked it after the industry sued the state, citing constitutional concerns.
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