Supreme Court: Kids Can Buy Violent Video Games

Discussion
Jun 28, 2011
George Anderson

Video game makers, retailers and libertarians are feeling pretty good today. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that prevented retailers from renting or selling violent video games to minors that included “killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.”

Justices by a seven to two margin concluded that the law violated free speech protections granted under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

“Like books, plays and movies, video games communicate ideas,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia. “The most basic principle of First Amendment law is that government has no power to restrict expression because of its content.”

Justice Scalia added, “California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read — or read to them when they are younger — contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed.”

Clarence Thomas, one of the two dissenting votes, argued that First Amendment rights did not extend to minors under the Constitution.

“After today, I expect now you’re going to see more growth, more creation and more promotion of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board),” Michael Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, told The Associated Press. “The decision today didn’t create any new rights for the industry. It simply affirmed the rights that we believed we had all along.”

“Adults are the main driving force on what kind of content is produced,” Tim Winter, president of the Parents Television Council, told the news service. “I don’t see this in any way, shape or form making for more violent games. What this allows is for retailers to sell violent video games to children.”

Discussion Questions: Do you agree with the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association? Is there a legitimate case to be made for government or retailers limiting what video games or other forms of entertainment that kids can purchase?

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12 Comments on "Supreme Court: Kids Can Buy Violent Video Games"


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David Dorf
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I don’t see why video games are any different than movies, adult magazines, or tobacco. All should require a minimum age check. Free speech does not extend to minors.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I am not in favor of violent video games, but bravo for this decision. Let the parents control their kids and what they are exposed to. It is not the government’s business.

And while we are at it let’s get rid of the hypocrisy of the anti-free speech laws regarding broadcast TV, profanity and nudity. People can make their own decisions. We don’t need government “protecting” or virgin ears and eyes.

We hear so much about the fear of big government. These kinds of restrictions on personal choice are big government at its worst.

Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

There is a legitimate case to be made that parents should be aware of the video games or other forms of entertainment that kids can purchase. Those adults have an ability to guide products that come to market, and they will be the chief influencers of retailers.

The Supreme Court ruling came down on the side of “Free Speech”–a principle worth defending in this particular instance.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 10 months ago
There is a legitimate case to be made for the fact that, in our legal system, children don’t share equal rights with adults. A seven year old can’t walk into a beer store and buy a six pack and a cigar, nor can they drive a car or vote. The law clearly establishes that certain behaviors are age dependent. So apparently it’s O.K. to sell a minor a video game in which he or she gets to, say, sexually assault a woman, but it’s not O.K. to give that same minor free access to the same imagery in a movie. And that would be because in the first case it’s a video image and in the second it’s a … hmm … a video image. Justice Scalia is right. American children are exposed to intensely violent images all of the time. That’s part of the reason kids shoot each other. And, the Supreme Court is right that abridging First Amendment freedoms is a slippery slope. But, with all due respect to my fellow commentators, you… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

So this Court thinks that the state has no interest in protecting children from violent games, which means they’ll also support laws that would allow children to smoke, drink and, what the heck, drive! Why have a government at all?

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I am a proponent of parents knowing what their children are buying and doing. There should be limits on what they can buy without a parent’s permission or presence. It will not stop the sales, but it might curtail it.

Kevin Graff
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I think you have to be pretty far to the ‘right’ to agree with the Court decision. Kids need protection, and to say that it’s up to their parents to provide it, while theoretically sound, is just nonsense. Yes, a lot of parents ‘get it’ and would do fine. But, have you looked around and see how some parents have no idea how to actually parent? Keep in mind, you don’t need a license to have kids.

What’s next? Kids voting at age 5? Beer stands instead of lemonade stands?

Geoffrey Igharo
Guest
Geoffrey Igharo
9 years 10 months ago

This is poor decision by the judges, as kids, as minors, are currently shielded legally from pornography sales, for example, regardless of its free speech implications.

Sociological studies show that exposure to violence does have a material impact on the development of young minds, so basically the judges are throwing kids to the dogs here.

I have to wonder how far the court’s libertarian impulses will go. If we continue to produce generations of children exposed to this violence, and as a society judge them to be independent minds, at some point they could end up before the same Supreme Court in capital punishment cases.

And then what — the courts will throw them to the dogs again, under the same libertarian principles?

Really disturbing … particularly when you look at the US’s abysmal rates of violent crime when compared to OECD nations. The situation will only get worse on the back of this decision.

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
9 years 10 months ago

This court treats corporations as individuals and children as adults. And, of course, a company cannot be guilty of discrimination unless it puts that policy in writing. What happened to all those people screaming about an activist judicial branch?

Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

As a retailer, I ran companies that sold a variety of age restricted categories. I never had an issue with any of the regulations as I personally thought they made sense.

This is a very tough issue. While I am all for free speech, I agree that as our government has seen fit to restrict the age of consumption for various items, it should do so for violent games. Doesn’t mean an older brother, cousin or even the parent won’t buy something that I might consider inappropriate, but means at least we tried.

David Schulz
Guest
David Schulz
9 years 10 months ago

Kids putting old witches in ovens, wolves eating grandmothers, wolves destroying houses in order to eat the inhabitants…go back and read Mother Goose and the Brothers Grimm with your eyes open this time and let everyone know how you survived childhood to be the good person that you are today.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I find Ryan Mathews argument to be persuasive.

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