AB450 is a bill that "would prohibit retailers from selling or renting certain games that depict 'especially heinous, atrocious or cruel' violence to children age 16 and under." (Sacramento Bee, 04/09/2005)
Let me state this up front: I am not a supporter of video game violence. Neither am I a detractor. I'm more of a libertarian on the issue: it is what it is.
Ok, now for my rant.
What I am not a fan of, is politicians who enact laws based on their personal bias. I'm not a fan of government further extending its reach into private family life. I'm not a fan of parents who abdicate their responsibility to raise their children and teach them values, and I am especially not a fan of government that thinks it knows better than parents WHICH values to teach their children.
New legislation passed just last year requires stores to post signs and offer flyers explaining the rating system. Many stores voluntarily will not sell the ultra-violent games to juveniles. But this is not enough for San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman (any surprise there?) Leland Yee, a psychiatrist by trade (again, any surprise?). He wants a new law, stating that games identified as 'especially heinous, atrocious or cruel' will carry new warnings with a prohibition against sales to children under 17, and a $1,000 fine to vendors who violate that ban.
My question is, who defines "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel"?
Mr. Yee is a San Francisco Democrat, and I say that because it's important to understand his bias. Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan group that tracks voting records, finds Mr. Yee sides with "liberal" issues almost 100% of the time. That means, generally, he is in favor of more government regulation, and holds that exerting government influence is generally the best way to accomplish a social agenda.
Mr. Yee offers this legislation because he thinks the videos are harmful, and parents are not doing enough to keep these harmful items out of the hands of impressionable children, but his views on what is harmful is not shared by all. I think this attempt to define "harmful", based on a subjective opinion, is a dangerous step toward more government regulation of what goes on inside the home.
If Mr. Yee and those like him are successful, they won't stop at regulation. They will continue on to a ban. And therein lies my issue.
Parents need to be free to teach their subjective values to their children, even when some find them disagreeable. Hunters need to be able to teach their kids to hunt. Muslims need to be free to teach their children the values of Islam. Christians need to be able to teach their Christian values to their kids. Peace-niks (no offense intended) need to be able to teach their children the peaceful values they cherish.
Parents of all persuasions need to be able to teach their children the values and ideas that, frankly, not everyone else agrees with. Even if it is considered by some to be violent (martial-arts anyone? Football? Hunting? Boxing?).
When I was little, we played 'cowboys and indians'. No blood. No gore. No actual shooting. But even then there was always the little kid who wanted to throw real rocks for bullets, or stab you with a stick, pretending it was an arrow. There have always been, and will always be, kids who act out, and don't know any boundaries.
It's not about the games. More regulation is not the answer.
A return to some time honored values, manners, common sense, and parents who raise their kids and take responsibility for them IS the answer. We should be holding parents responsible for their kids actions, and speaking out loudly against those who let their children down.
Shame them into being better parents, I say. It worked for 2000 years before "modern western civilization", it can work again.
Just keep the government from reaching even further into my home.