House bill would prohibit violent game sales to minors

As the political dialogue on video game violence continues in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, state representatives are starting to propose and draft legislation that would place restrictions on the game industry. One proposal would tax violent video games, while a drafted House bill would ban the sale of Adults Only or Mature-rated games to minors.

The AP (via Joystiq) reports that Representative Diane Franklin (R-MO) is proposing a 1% sales tax on violent video games, the proceeds of which would then be put towards law enforcement. This is similar to an Oklahoma bill that was defeated in a state house subcommittee last year.

Meanwhile, a new bill from Jim Matheson (D-UT), HR-287 (PDF), would require ratings labels on games, and restrict retailers from selling AO or M-rated games below their respective age recommendations of 18 or 17. Failure to comply with any part of the law would result in a fine up to $5,000 per violation. While the ESRB already exists to voluntarily rates games as a bit of self-regulation for the industry, the bill would make it a legal requirement.

If this all sounds incredibly familiar, it's because the Supreme Court struck down a similar state law from California in 2011. The state law would have imposed its own standards for what qualified as a violent game, so HR-287 wouldn't have that problem. But the SCOTUS' ruling was couched in the First Amendment, stating outright that "the basic principles of freedom of speech do not vary" based on the medium. So if this bill passes into law, it would likely be challenged in court.

To some extent the game industry is battling public perception. A NBC/WSJ News Poll (PDF) released last night showed 62% of respondents claiming violent media like movies and video games hold at least "a good amount" of responsibility for shootings like the ones in Tuscon and Newtown. By comparison, availability of guns and other weapons in general was only believed to be responsible at 53%, and availability of assault firearms was at 59%. This echoes Vice President Biden's recent comments that public opinion may be against the game industry.