Commentary

New York Lawmakers: Equating X-Rated Games With Homicide?

So, it's looking like by the time the New York State Legislature ends its legislative session on June 21, its members will have reached agreement on a bill that criminalizes the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games to minors, punishable by up to four years in prison. For the purposes of comparison, here are some other offenses that rate four years in prison in New York state:


  • Perjury
  • Sex with a 14-year-old prostitute
  • Aiding a suicide attempt
  • Criminally negligent homicide
  • Statutory rape
  • Setting fire to an abandoned car or building
  • Bigamy
  • Money laundering

    A compromise hasn't been reached yet; the debate is between the Republican-controlled state Senate, which wants a stricter version of the bill that creates a state-run video game rating board, and the Democratic-controlled state Assembly, which merely wants game store clerks to be led away in handcuffs for selling "Grand Theft Auto IV" to the wrong person. If these two positions are reconciled, the bill will go into effect in four months.

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    There's not too much more to say beyond what was said here. The main problem with lawmakers legislating on video games is that they know nothing about them -- in fact, this is the main problem with lawmakers legislating on most topics. The bill's Senate backer, Republican Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, said that though the bill might be unconstitutional, at least they're trying. "I believe we ought to try, rather than just walk away from the issue," he said. "We lose nothing by trying."

    If only that were true. The Entertainment Software Association stands ready to challenge the bill, and it will likely win, seeing as how similar bills have been struck down in numerous other states. Court costs for these sorts of cases typically run into seven figures, and those costs, of course, are passed on to the New York taxpayers. And if the bill somehow makes it through a constitutional challenge, I doubt the first teenage store clerk who is sent to prison will have lost "nothing."

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