What If Banning Violent Video Games Makes Americans More Violent?

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A Utah Democrat wants to crack down on violent video games as a way to address violent crimes:

Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) introduced a bill this week that would ban the sale of violent video games to minors.

The Supreme Court struck down a similar California law in 2011, ruling that the restriction violated the constitutional right to free speech.

Matheson’s Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act, H.R. 287, would make it illegal for anyone to ship, distribute, sell or rent a video game that does not bear a label from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) on the age-appropriateness of the game.

The ESRB, an industry self-regulatory group, already assigns age-based labels to video games, ranging from “C” for early childhood, “E” for everyone, “T” for teen, “M” for mature, and “AO” for adults only, but the system is entirely voluntary.

The bill probably won’t get far. As the article notes, the Supreme Court has already struck down one such law. “No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm…but that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed,” Scalia wrote in the majority opinion of that ruling.

But here’s a question: What if violent entertainment helped reduce violent crimes?

This is a correlation, if not a causal link, between higher rates of violence in media and games and lower rates of violent crime. I think we can all concede that television, movies and video games have gotten progressively more violent over the last several decades, yet violent crime in America is indisputably in the decline:

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This is true in other areas too. Gun sales have surged in America, yet gun crimes have not. Thanks to the internet, pornography is more readily available (and more mainstream) than ever before, yet sex crimes are declining.

Are gun sales, porn and violent movies/video games making crime go down? We might make a logical case for it. Perhaps those inclined to violent or sexual crimes are able to satisfy their whims in these less harmful mediums, and perhaps the proliferation of guns has better enabled Americans to defend themselves.

But that’s just conjecture. I don’t think there’s been a scientific link established, but we can say one thing for sure which is that these trends are devastating to political tropes about movies, video games, guns and porn promoting violent and sexual crimes.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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