Not only are politicians in Washington and some state legislatures trying to clamp down on guns, they’re also coming after video games. One Connecticut town has already held a “video game buy back” program, during which they offered a $25 gift certificate for violent games. Much like gun buy back programs, the video games collected were destroyed.
But it doesn’t end there. In Missouri, a nanny state Republican legislator is proposing a 1% tax on violent video games. These sort of taxes, best described as a “sin tax” are typically used control behavior, deterring people from engaging in activities that are frowned upon. It would essentially treat video games like cigarettes and alcohol, both of which are heavily taxed by the feds and state governments.
According to Forbes, US Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) is pushing for a complete ban on the sale or renting of violent video games to minors. This proposal is very similar to one that was rejected by the United States Supreme Court in 2011 because, as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, video games are considered “protected speech.” Scalia also explained that “even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply.”
But even though the First Amendment clearly protects form of expression, the constant line from the White House and other politicians that there is a link between violent video games and actual acts of violent crime is tenuous, as Jim Kerstetter explained earlier this week at CNET:
don’t expect new revelations when it comes to video games. Psychologists have for years been looking at whether there are links between the fantasy violence of video games and real-world violence — and with rare exceptions, they haven’t found a connection. In 2010, the Review of General Psychology, which is the American Psychological Association’s journal, published a special issue on the topic. While one psychologist did connect fantasy and real-world violence in certain personalities, the most compelling research found that any link for the rest of society was, at best, specious.
Christopher Ferguson, of Texas A&M International University, argued in one paper that “the negative effects of violent games have been exaggerated by some elements of the scientific community, fitting with past cycles of media-focused moral panics.”
Despite the shaky link between video games and violence, there is a motivating factor to capitalize on the moment — as Hillary Clinton once said, “Never waste a good crisis.” Politicians who have long-standing biases towards guns and/or video games are going to use a tragedy to try to gain an edge in public policy.
Whatever dumb policies that a politician can concoct — whether it’s a tax or an unconstitutional ban on the sale of games — kids will still wind up playing Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Grand Theft Auto. As for me, politicians can have my video games when they pry them from my cold, dead hands.