Grand theft of innocence

Leland Y. Yee is the California state assemblyman representing the 12th District

This year, I am introducing two bills that would restrict the sale of violent video games to children. One bill would make it unlawful to sell certain types of violent video games to minors. The other would require that games rated “mature” be displayed in a manner consistent with the industry’s own advisories.

As a strong supporter of the First Amendment, I thought it important that we narrowly tailor these bills to prevent any infringement on our constitutional rights. As adults, we have a responsibility to protect our children from harmful material, and courts have agreed in such areas as alcohol, cigarettes and pornography. Though clearly it is the right of adults to purchase and use these products responsibly, few if any would argue that children should be allowed to drink, smoke or view pornography. We don’t view these restrictions as violations of children’s rights; we view them as necessary limitations to protect the health and safety of our children.

There is hard medical evidence to prove that activities such as smoking, drinking and viewing pornography at a young age can interfere with a child’s development. Similarly, countless studies have shown that excessive exposure to media violence at a young age can lead to increased aggression, desensitization and anti-social behavior later in life.

Regulating the sale of violent video games to minors does not take away a parent’s responsibility but, in fact, gives them control. Right now, any 12-year-old can walk into a retailer and purchase a video game that will allow him or her to virtually act out violence on lifelike depictions of humans, all without parental knowledge or permission.

For example, in the game Postal 2, the lead character mutters racial slurs while pouring gasoline on women and minorities before setting them on fire. In Grand Theft Auto 3, when a player’s energy reserves start to wane, that player can hire a prostitute to replenish his energy and then kill her to avoid paying for her services. These types of games are simply inappropriate and unhealthy for our children.

Fortunately, Californians have overwhelmingly agreed. Since introducing this legislation, we have received support from parent groups, child advocates, law enforcement and medical professionals. Please join me in protecting our children by supporting the effort to pass this much-needed legislation.