Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will ask the legislature today to make it a misdemeanor for retailers to allow anyone younger than 18 to purchase violent or sexually explicit video games, the Chicago Tribune reports. “Right now a 12-year-old can walk into a store and buy a game with graphic violence, nudity, obscene language and they have no problem obtaining those games,” said Abby Ottenhoff, Blagojevich’s spokeswoman. “For the video game industry, self-regulation isn’t working.”
The proposal drew fire from retailers, civil libertarians, and kids who play the games. Hammad Ahmed, 12, rejected studies that claim violence in video games desensitizes children like him to real violence. “Kids aren’t that stupid,” he insisted. “Like me, I wouldn’t go and do that.” The Tribune attributes the proposal to a “politically ambitious Democrat” who is “trying to create a national buzz for himself by championing causes with surefire headline appeal.” The governor’s office said the proposal would define violent games as those that realistically depict human-on-human violence, including images of death, dismemberment, amputation, decapitation, maiming, disfigurement, mutilation of body parts or rape. Jim Steyer, a constitutional law professor at Stanford University and head of a group called Common Sense Media, believes the proposal could stand up in the courts if narrowly drawn. David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said retailers could be in the unenviable position of having to make subjective judgments that police and prosecutors could later second guess. “Is a fistfight between Popeye and Brutus in the old Popeye cartoons too violent? I don’t know. Is knocking Humpty Dumpty off the wall too violent? I don’t know,” Vite said.