NJ Assemblyman Sean Kean Doubles Down On Bad Video Game Legislation
from the twice-as-stupid-in-half-the-time! dept
To all you politicians out there willingly riding the coattails of a massacre into the Big Book of Bad Legislation: Just. Stop. There’s too many of you out there right now using your downtime to Pin the Tail on the Scapegoat with poorly conceived bills that aim to clean up a video game market that, quite frankly, is doing a great job regulating itself.
But if you’re someone like Sen. Charles Grassley, Rep. Jim Matheson, CT State Sen. Toni Harp or Rep. Debralee Hovey, something needs to be done about this nonexistent problem, and it needs to be done now. Lots of “something” has already been proposed and, fortunately, most of that “something” will be discarded before it ever becomes law, thanks to the Constitution.
However, if you’re someone like NJ Assemblyman Sean T. Kean, you’re not going to stop at one “something.” No, if you’re an inspired go-getter like Kean, you’re going to introduce two diametrically opposed video game-related bills, hurl them into the legislative chambers and shout: “Now kiss!”
Here’s “something” No. 1:
The first proposal prohibits the sale of any video game with an ESRB rating of “mature” or “adults only” to a person under the age of 18. Violating this law would carry a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense. In addition, the Attorney General would be given the legal authority to issue cease and desist orders against the retailer and award punitive damages to the minor.
Kean is obviously unaware that the video game industry’s entirely voluntary ratings system has managed to turn away 87% of underage purchasers. And this is happening without threats, hefty fines or the heavy hand of government intervention. But, as we all have learned over the years, the government simply cannot believe that good things happen without its interference. Politicians’ jobs rely on this misconception. And that’s how we end up with
suggestions legislation like this, one that claims to be “for the children,” but is really just the government hanging around outside game retailers with its hand out.
Judging by the impressive size of the fines (and the bizarre award of punitive damages to the minor — what? getting the game isn’t reward enough?), Kean is very serious about keeping “violent, sexually explicit” video games out of the hands (and eyes) of children — so serious, in fact, that he has introduced another bill, which oddly enough, finds a way to put these M-rated games right back in these kids’ hands (and eyes).
Under the second bill, minors would be permitted to purchase video games containing mature and adult content only if their parent or guardian is present during the purchase and gives their consent verbally or in writing at the time of the sale. Penalties for any violations are the same as with the first bill.
Good news, kids! Know someone over the age of 17? Then you too can own any number of “violent, sexually explicit” titles simply by declaring a random 17+ person your “guardian!” It’s called a “two-party sale” and it’s no different than hitting up the nearest 21-year-old still wearing his high school letter jacket and asking him (or her — but it’s always a him) to pick you up something to drink from the local liquor jobber. More seriously, why is this even needed? Parents have always had the option to purchase M-rated titles for their kids. This just throws additional pressure on the retailers who now have to make a judgement call as to the legitimacy of the adult accompanying the underaged purchaser. Before Kean’s meddling, all a retailer had to do was refuse the sale. If this bill makes it through, retailers will be faced with the dubious pleasure of selling M-rated games to minors simply because someone over the age of 17 said it was OK — and hefty fines if they screw up.
“Just as it’s unlawful for minors to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, because it’s detrimental to their well being, the same can be said of adult video games, most of which contain extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer’s eyes and ears,” said Kean. “These two pieces of legislation are intended to protect children.”
While I can appreciate the tiny bit of deference shown towards parents who may feel their children can handle Call of Duty (or just don’t care), I’m of the opinion that Kean’s much more fond of the first bill than the second. The first is a deterrent with a government-rewarding fine attached that plays right into his “video games hurt children” mindset. The second is lip service towards individual responsibility. If Kean truly cares about individual responsibility, he’d shut up and get out of the way and let a system that is working extremely well continue unimpeded by unnecessary government interference.