(WASHINGTON) -- Several Justices on the Supreme Court expressed skepticism Tuesday regarding a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors.
“California asks this Court“ said California Deputy Attorney General Zackery P. Morazzini “to adopt a rule of law that permits states to restrict minors' ability to purchase deviant, violent video games that the legislature has determined can be harmful.”
But justices struggled with the scope of the law and if it could be stretched to apply to other violent mediums.
“Some of Grimm’s Fairy Tales are quite grim to tell you the truth,” said Justice Antonin Scalia. “Are you going to ban those too?”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “I mean, if you are supposing a category of violent materials dangerous to children, then how do you cut it off at video games? What about films? What about comic books?”
Chief Justice John Roberts was clearly troubled by the impact of the games on minors. In describing one game he said,“We do not have a tradition in this country of telling children they should watch people actively hitting schoolgirls over the head with a shovel so they'll beg with mercy, being merciless and decapitating them, shooting people in the leg so they fall down.”
Paul Smith, a lawyer for the makers of the videos, told the Court it is the role of parents, not the government, to protect the children from the games. “Parents have been doing that since time immemorial," he said. The question before this Court is whether you are going to create an entirely new exception under the First Amendment.”
Smith dismissed concerns that violent video games need special attention because they are a relatively new medium.
“We do have a new medium here,” he said, “ but we have a history in this country of new mediums coming along and people vastly overreacting to them, thinking the sky is falling, our children are all going to be turned into criminals.”
The law was passed in 2005 but legal challenges have stopped it from ever taking effect. It provides for up to a $1,000 fine to retailers who sell violent video games , although the fine does not apply to sales clerks if they have no ownership interest in the business. The California legislature, in passing the law, considered numerous studies that established a link between playing the violent games with an increase in aggressive thoughts, anti-social behavior and desensitization to violence in both minors and adults.
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