Can a State Ban Sale of Violent Video Games to Children?

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Justice Stephen Breyer appeared to be the most vocal defender of the law. "Why isn't it common sense to say that if a parent wants his 13-year-old child to have a game where the child is going to sit there and imagine he is a torturer and impose gratuitous, painful, excruciating, torturing violence" Breyer argued, "why isn't it common sense to say a state has the right to say, 'Parent, if you want that for your 13-year-old, you go buy it yourself'

U.S. consumers spend more than $10 billion a year on video games.

A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the industry, reasoning that the state hadn't established a sufficient link between the violent games and the physical and psychological harm to children.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sided with the industry in the case and questioned the effectiveness of the law because it is unclear whether it applies to online sales.

"There is no way for an Internet host to tell whether you are 45 years old or 15 years old," staff attorney Chris Hansen said. "If it doesn't apply to online sales, it becomes a silly law. And if it does apply to online sales, it becomes a law that prevents adults from playing, as well as minors.

Opponents of censorship have said they believe there should be no special category for the video games. "Violence has been a category of speech that has always enjoyed full protection," Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship said.

"The courts have always understood that discussions and depictions of violence in art, literature, film, theater have a great deal of value. It would be impossible to draw a line between good violence and bad violence."

Although a handful of other states have tried, California is the only state that has passed legislation to ban the sale of violent video games.

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