In the wake of the Newtown massacre, lawmakers have been looking for ways to prevent similar tragedies. Some have linked gun violence to violent video games. One New Jersey lawmaker, Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-22), is introducing a bill to ban violent video games in public places. Stender told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she had tried to push for similar legislation in the past, but without success. As the national conversation on violence continues in the aftermath of Newtown, she thinks the current political climate may be more receptive to limiting access to violent video games.
Technologically, the level of sophistication of today’s video games are such that it’s frightening, said Stender,
“They’re first person shooter games, they put guns in the hands of little kids and teach them how to kill.”
The proposed bill is intended to limit children’s access to violent games by banning them in public places like bowling alleys. Parents shouldn’t have to fear sending their children to birthday parties where they may be exposed to such graphic violence, said Stender.
“That isn’t what they want for their child. It’s just inappropriate for young kids to be given that access.”
Stender acknowledged the difficulty in getting such a ban passed, saying “we know that the Supreme Court has overturned a similar ban to children in California but what we can do is create reasonable parameters to limit access.”
Her inspiration for the bill came from one of her constituents, a concerned mother who took her four-year-old and seven-year-old to a bowling alley that had video arcades featuring violent games.
“You didn’t even have to put money in the machine and the kids were going up [and] picking up these guns that look like semiautomatic weapons so that they could pretend to be shooting and the scenes were very violent and very sexual,” Stender said.
She emphasized that the bill is limited to arcade-style games and does not impact the purchase and use of video games for home entertainment. But this isn’t the first time Stender tried to get a ban on video games.
“A few years ago, I had introduced legislation to ban these games,” said Stender. “It was not successful but that’s when I became aware of the violent nature and at that point it was Grand Theft Auto that had just come out with its newest version, but we continue to see with every report that this issue of violent video games is one factor amongst many.”
According to Stender, the time may be ripe to reintroduce the legislation in light of the ongoing debate on gun control and violence in our society, saying “people’s attitudes and awareness of it has changed.”
She added that studies done over the past 20 years show that violent video games impact the parts of the brain that control aggression and emotional response.
“We’re trying to create safer environments for kids and for parents to have comfort about having their children out in public places because the things that we can’t prohibit are people from going and buying these things. They are protected by the First Amendment. And so we can’t stop that but we can provide reasonable control so that young children are not having access.”