Despite a 2011 Supreme Court ruling affirming games as a First Amendment-protected form of speech, regulation of violent video game sales to minors continues to be a popular idea among American legislators. The latest evidence of that comes from the New Jersey SAFE Task Force, which last week released a report recommending state lawmakers curb violent game sales to minors.
The task force was formed by Governor Chris Christie in January to propose actions New Jersey should take to prevent tragedies like December's Newtown school shooting in nearby Connecticut. It produced dozens of recommendations covering changes to the state's gun control laws (like requiring a photo ID to purchase firearms), expanding access to mental health care, and encouraging school districts to use armed school resource officers.
As for suggestions relevant to games, the task force recommended conducting a review to see if violent media was being marketed to kids, educating parents on healthy media habits, pushing industry groups to run parental awareness campaigns, and pulling violent arcade games from any public state property. On the regulation front, the group advised the governor to require ID carding for anyone buying M- or AO-rated games, and for minors to be accompanied by adults when purchasing such titles. The task force also recommended requiring retailers to conspicuously display ESRB ratings, as well as their policies on selling violent games.
Before making that suggestion, the task force report acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling on games. It did not explain why its own recommended actions would be expected to pass judicial scrutiny, but it did note actions to be taken were "subject to the appropriate regulatory authority's consideration of the practicality and feasibility of each approach."
The task force's recommendations are largely in line with previous comments Gov. Christie has made. In a January appearance on The Today Show, the governor said he would only consider legislation tightening gun control if it were passed in tandem with measures to address concerns like mental health, substance abuse, and media violence.