Scary Words: Boston Mayor Wants to Lay Down the (Video Game) Law

Boston news radio station WBZ-1030 has a disturbing interview with Mayor Thomas Menino (left) conducted by on-air personality Laurie Kirby (GP: I can’t refer to her as a “reporter” based on the softballs she’s tossing to Menino here).

The interview took place on March 17th on the eve of the Massachusetts Legislature’s consideration of HB1423. The measure, a video game bill based on the Jack Thompson-authored Louisiana legislation which failed so miserably in federal court in 2006 (see: Judge Trashes Louisiana Government Over Failed Jack Thompson Law, Orders State to Pay Legal Fees), would seek to classify violent video games as “harmful to minors” in the same legal sense as pornography.

Here’s the text of the interview (as transcribed by GP). Note that Menino speaks of the proposed law as a “ban” throughout the interview and, amazingly, expresses a desire to enforce a lifestyle change on game players.

He also seems to be bothered by the image of kids playing handheld systems, as he references it at several different points in the interview:

Mayor Menino: …these video games and violence. And uh, ya know, kids – they play with them, they see them on TV all the times. You know, we gotta take some measures to restrict access to this violence. And everybody’s well, the First Amendment, uh, you can’t do it because this.

We always can’t do something. My measure, let’s do something to restrict young people from glorify- from being glorified with this violence. As I look at this, I watch little kids out there with these little video games. There’s shootings, there’s killings and all that. We’ve got to do something. Everybody says we can’t. I’m saying we can and let’s start now. Because there’s too much violence on the streets of America, presently, to uh, that is happening.

And so, as Mayor, I just want to put something out there, and let’s have a discussion about this. Everybody has a responsibility. I’m taking some of that responsibility, I know it’s controversial. But you gotta do something about banning the violence that young people are accustomed to today. And it’s a tough battle because they say, it’s a First Amendment. But we also have… rights in America to have a safe neighborhoods, safe streets, and safe world. And that’s what my discussion will be about – is about safety in our homes, safety in our streets, safety in our worlds.

Announcer: Well it’s interesting, because they are bringing up the First Amendment issue here, but what about pornography? I mean there are some – obviously, minors can’t buy pornography, so it’s not as if there aren’t some restrictions  already in place.

Menino: That’s right. They put pornography in the back of a room or someplace. Kids can’t buy it readily. But you can buy those video games right off the counter without showing any identification at all. And that’s part of our efforts is to try to restrict the access to these video games.

Announcer: So… what are you going to do, exactly here, and what woud the language be? You would ask for all Boston stores…?

Menino: Well I have a piece of legislation that will be heard up in the legislature tomorrow. My staff will be testifying on the ban and asking the legislature to put restrictions on the availability of these games and other activities that may enhance a young person’s ability to see these, uh, this violence and put it in their hands with the little video games they have there’s violence always happening. And it has to be restricted. I mean it’s just another way of saying, hey, we all have a responsibility and the video game industry also has a responsibility.

Announcer: Okay, so you would ban the outright sale of any kind of violent video game to what – anybody under the age of 17, or what?

Menino:  18. I’d restrict the sale of video games to anyone under the age of 18.

Announcer: So the store could still sell them, you’re just trying to protect the kids.

Menino: That’s right. I mean, you start early on. Kids start at 5, 6, 7 years old watching those video games. They think it’s a way of life and I’m trying to make them understand there’s a different way of life (emphasis GP’s) and, uh, as you go about your daily chores, you’ll see these kids with the video games in their hands. They’ll see it on the TV, see it everyplace you go, there’s violence that’s out there. If you watched one of our major sporting events last year, every video that was on there, every advertisement had violence in it. Our life is full of violence.

Announcer: You’re absolutely right. Now what would the penalty be for a store that didn’t card a kid and sold a kid a game?

Menino: We haven’t determined what the violence would be, I mean the penalty would be, but we’re looking at some serious, serious restriction on the sale of these video games.

Original WBZ audio here: (you’ll need to scroll down a bit for the March 17th interview).

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