New Jersey task force pushes for violent game regulations

Report to governor's office recommends lawmakers curb sale of M-rated games to minors

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.

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Latest comments (2)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
This is nothing but a 'feel-good' proposal to take advantage of the Newton tragedy for political gain.

1. This proposal suggests a connection between violent video games and Newton.
2. Most of the proposed actions are already done at video game outlets anyway.
3. Do they really think the mentality of a 16 year old that can pass for a 17 year old is actually so vastly different from an actual 17 year old that it would prevent other tragedies?

The only thing valid here is better access to mental health care. More specifically, they don't need better access because good access actually already exists. But they need to market that access better which is where the problem lies.
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David Serrano Freelancer 5 years ago
@Jim Webb

I live in NJ, I don't have children and I loath Chris Christie. But claiming that this report suggested a connection between violent video games and Newton is misleading.

Chapter 4 of the report is titled Violence In The Media: Understanding The Potential Impact Of Violent Media, And Ensuring We Make Appropriate Media Choices For Our Children. In the first paragraph, it states: "Indeed, in the immediate aftermath of many mass shootings, it is difficult to find a discussion of those events that does not raise the issue of violence in the media, particularly violent video games." Translation: In the aftermath of those acts of mass violence, the same questions about a possible connection have been raised. Which is true. The statement was made to create the context for presenting both sides of the argument.

And the first paragraph of their recommendations is: "Our recommendations are provided cognizant of the fact that violent media has received a great deal of blame for youth violence in the recent past, but most people agree that exposure to media violence alone does not cause a child to commit a violent act. While several major public health organizations have voiced their shared conviction that exposure to violent media leads to more aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, they have also acknowledged that it is not the sole, or even the most important, factor contributing to youth aggression, anti-social attitudes, and violence."

Honestly, I'm shocked that Gov. Hog created a task force that presented him with accurate, objective and balanced information, and with reasonable and fair recommendations.
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