American Civil Liberties Union Legislative Counsel Gabe Rottman says that cracking down on violent video games in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre would be a step in the wrong direction. The group says that just because Adam Lanza, 20, played video games like Call of Duty and Starcraft “obsessively” does not mean that others who play the games will morph into mass murderers.
The ACLU’s response comes as Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is proposing legislation that would study the effects of violent video games on young people.
Mr. Rottman says Mr. Rockefeller’s proposals and efforts like it are simply attempts to score “easy” points and do little to curb youth violence:
Media violence has long been a target of lawmakers seeking a cheap and politically cost-free way to address crimes committed by young people. Calls for studies, hearings, self-censorship, or even actual censorship are easy. Most folks aren’t going to go out of their way to defend stuff that panders to the baser instincts, and lawmakers look like they’re doing something proactive to get at the problem.
In making his case against censorship, the ACLU attorney cited an unlikely ally in Justice Antonin Scalia:
As the Supreme Court pointed out (in a decision overturning a California state law criminalizing sales of violent video games to minors), even the psychologists who claim a causal link are only able to come up with weak evidence of correlation. And correlation is not causation…
Justice Scalia wrote the opinion in the violent video games case, and he made much of the fact that video games aren’t uniquely violent. In doing so, he cited Grimm’s Fairy Tales (which are simply brutal if you’ve ever read the originals), the Odyssey, Dante’s Inferno, and (notably) Lord of the Flies.
His main point here was that there’s no “longstanding tradition” of restricting children’s access to depictions of violence; had there been one, it might have bolstered California’s argument that the government has an interest in regulating access.
In the end, says Mr. Rottman, “parents are the ones who need to supervise their children’s consumption of media.”