State Sen. Toni Harp claims to have found the link between video games and youth violence, and she hopes the rest of the Connecticut Legislature will support her assertion.
Harp has introduced a bill to prohibit minors from using “point and shoot” video games in public spaces like arcades has already passed the senate judiciary committee, and she hopes the Senate and House will approve it in May.
“Point and shoot” video games involve using an arcade gun to shoot targets.
Under the proposed bill, arcade managers would have to check the identification of people wanting to play these games. Violators would be charged with an infraction.
“I’m hoping video arcades and other public places where video games are played will segregate violent games,” she said.
The bill is part of a national backlash against violent television programs, movies and video games following a surge in school shootings across the nation.
Congress has debated making it a crime to expose children to video games with explicit sex or violence. Some municipalities have enacted similar laws, and other state legislatures are toying with the idea.
Harp cited Lt. David Grossman, a former professor of military psychology at West Point and a leading advocate in the fight against violent video games, who said the military uses these games to desensitize its troops to killing. He maintains that violent games have the same effect on children.
“The cognitive and decision-making ability of children under the age of 18 is less developed, and many times they cannot separate reality from fantasy,” Harp added.
Experts believe Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the teenagers who killed 13 people and took their own lives at Columbine High School two years ago, shot with incredible accuracy in part due to experience gained at arcades.
Similar measures in Connecticut have surfaced, but they have never become law.
“In the past few years, it has had overwhelming support in the Senate,” Harp said. “There were just timing problems in the House.”
The arcade industry already rates its video games and recommends age restrictions, and the bill would make those recommended restrictions mandatory. Harp believes this will deter groups like the American Civil Liberties Union from contesting the constitutionality of the bill.
“The games already are rated as to who should be playing them, and this is just enforcing the industry’s own rating system,” Harp said.
Connecticut ACLU attorney Philip Etgler said the group intends to review the bill.
The proposal only tries to legislate the use of “point and shoot” games in public spaces.
“We’re really not trying to say if you don’t think these things are harmful, you can’t have them in your home,” Harp said.