Today lawmakers in Connecticut held a public meeting to get feedback from the community and interested parties on several pieces of legislation that have been proposed about video games in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in December. Supporters of legislation to regulate video games told members of the General Assembly’s Children’s Committee that they believe that there is a causal link between playing violent video games and violent real-world act committed by youth.
Ultimately the public meeting gave lawmakers a mixed reaction to several bills including one that would ban youngsters under the age of 18 from playing shooter games in public arcades, another that would add a ten percent sin tax to "Mature" rated titles, and still another proposal would set up a task force to study the effects of violent video games on youth in the state.
The Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other media trade associations warned lawmakers that any kind of ban would ultimately be unconstitutional.
"This is a case where there’s solid law of the land on this issue," said David McGuire, staff attorney at the Connecticut ACLU. He told lawmakers on the committee that it is the right of parents to decide which games their children ultimately play and not lawmakers.
McGuire's "law of the land" comment is the 2011 Supreme Court decision on the California video game law written by California State Senator Leland Yee. In that case the court found that research didn't support the connection between violent video game playing and real-world violent acts. The court also ruled that video games are protected as free speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Several people also testified on Tuesday that no studies show a direct link between violent video games and violent behavior in young game players. One of those people was a student named Stephen Hanshaw:
"People play these video games throughout the world," said Stephen Hanshaw, a student at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. "There has not been an increase of violence in correlation with the amount that has been sold."
Hanshaw added that the proposed ban on shooting games could create a burden for video arcade owners. If the law were passed arcade owners would likely lose revenue and would have to deal with the added burden of harassing their customers for ID. Also it doesn't make a lot of sense to regulate shooting games that are not rated "M' for "Mature" – most shooter arcade games are rated "T" or "E."
For now the bills proposed in Connecticut will have to make their way through various committees before coming to the floor for a vote. Hopefully today's public meeting will give lawmakers some information to make more informed and educated decisions on this complex subject.