Violent game bill lives on

West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller reintroduces bill to Congress calling for study into impact of violent games on children.


A bill calling for research into the effects of violent games on children will live on. Democratic West Virginia senator Jay Rockefeller reintroduced the bill to Congress this week, after it originally expired at the end of the 112th Congress last month.

Rockefeller at an unrelated hearing.
Rockefeller at an unrelated hearing.

First introduced last month just days after the December 14 schoolhouse shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the bill--S.134--would task the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study the effects of violent video games and other programs on children.

"Major corporations, including the video game industry, make billions on marketing and selling violent content to children," Rockefeller said at the time. "They have a responsibility to protect our children. If they do not, you can count on the Congress to take a more aggressive role."

The bill has four co-sponsors, including three republicans and one democrat. They are Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Thomas Coburn (R-OK), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Mike Johanns (R-NE). The potential legislation has been referred to the Senate's Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee, according to government documents.

According to public research firm GovTrack, the bill has a 13 percent chance of progressing past committee and a 2 percent chance of being enacted.

The bill would direct the NAS to conduct a "comprehensive study and investigation" of the link between violent games and other violent video programming and harmful effects on children. More specifically, the NAS would be charged with looking into whether or not video games/programming cause children to act aggressively or "otherwise hurt their wellbeing," and if so, determine if that effect is notably distinguishable from other types of media.

This study would also look at the "direct and long-lasting impact" of violent content on a child's well-being. If the bill passes, NAS must submit a report on its study within 18 months to Congress as well as the FTC and FCC.

S.134 is not the only newly proposed legislative action targeting games in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. President Barack Obama recently introduced a $500 million, 23-point plan that called for the Centers for Disease Control to conduct further research into the relationship between violence in media and violence in the real world.

The Entertainment Software Association--which represents the gaming industry's interests in Washington, DC--has said it will cooperate with the Obama administration, but claimed scientific research has proven entertainment does not cause real-world violent behavior.

In addition, Republican Utah congressman Jim Matheson recently introduced a bill to the House that would make the Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings legally enforceable, with fines up to $5,000. The ESA called this legislation "flawed."

In state-level news, a Missouri representative has introduced a bill that aims to charge a 1 percent excise tax on all games sold inside the state rated T, M, or AO.

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