Video Game Bill Aims at Restricting Sales to Minors - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Video Game Bill Aims at Restricting Sales to Minors

Grand Theft Auto Grand Theft Auto

Is violence in the eye of the beholder? A bill working its way through the Legislature would force it to be, putting video game retailers in the sticky situation of deciding whether certain games are too violent for minors. Choose wrong -- and they could face fines and jail time.

Lawmakers across the country have tried before to outlaw the sale of mature-rated video games to minors, but Constitutional questions over free speech have stopped those efforts. What's different this time? The bill takes the same Supreme Court-backed standards for sexual content considered harmful to minors and for the first time, applies them to violence.

Killing cops, stabbing prostitutes and shooting drivers to steal their cars is the basic idea behind Grand Theft Auto .

In the video game, you'll hear conversations like this: " That sh*t is beautiful. Let's teach the owner a lesson. The f**king Grove Street. You down? I'm down."

According to Miami attorney Jack Thompson, "It's a murder simulator, it's not a game."

Thompson represented victim's families after a Columbine-style school massacre.

Testifying on behalf of a bill by Representative Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, he told lawmakers interactive games like Grand Theft Auto are behind the killings, and now he's on a mission to stop minors from playing them.

"The U.S. military literally uses modified versions of these games, as well as their own video games, to do one thing: to break down the inhibition to kill among new recruits," says Thompson.

The bill says a video or computer game could not be sold to a minor if the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find the game:

  • appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence
  • depicts violence in a manner offensive to prevailing standards with respect to what is suitable for minors
  • and if the game lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.

The penalty for selling such a game? A fine between $100 and $2,000, and up to a year in prison.

Jessica Eliott with the state Retailers' Association says not all violent games have a "mature" rating. Something rated "teen" could be considered too violent, and could land a retailer in court.

"What appeals to a minor's morbid interest in violence?" Eliott asked a Senate committee Wednesday. "Who knows! But a retailer is asked to determine this and make a decision whether to sell a game to a person under 17 based on whether it's too violent or not."

Thompson tells 9 News he hopes retailers do end up in court so often, they will choose to stop selling violent games altogether.

The House Criminal Justice Committee passed the bill unanimously Wednesday. It heads to the full house for debate next.

Reporter: Marie Centanni mcentanni@wafb.com

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