Clinton Presses On With Video Game Bill

Hoping to use the holiday shopping season as a way to draw attention to the issue of violent video games, New York Senator Hillary Clinton on Friday introduced legislation to prohibit the sale of violent games to minors. The bill was co-sponsored by fellow Senators Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Evan Bayh of Indiana.

Clinton had first suggested that she would pursue such legislation after the revelations of sexually explicit material in the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game. Clinton then announced on November 30 that she and Lieberman would introduce the legislation before the holiday recess, and the Senator made good on her promise on Friday.

Several interest groups stood with Clinton as she made the announcement, including Common Sense Media, Parents Action for Children and the Center on Media and Child Health, in a show of support for the efforts.

The law is sure to anger gamers and the industry alike, which have both shown a public disdain for recent efforts to restrict video game sales. They have legal precedent behind them too; most laws enacted have been struck down on First Amendment grounds.

"The holiday season is a particularly important time to raise awareness of this issue. Video games are hot holiday items, and there are certainly wonderful games that help our children learn and increase hand and eye coordination," Clinton argued. "However, there are also games that are just not appropriate for our nation's youth."

Lieberman and Bayh echoed Clinton's comments, with Bayh saying the legislation would "give parents a hand by requiring retailers to abide by the ratings that are meant to keep children from purchasing violent video games." Bayh, like Clinton, has been mentioned as a possible contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

The bill would make it illegal for a Mature, Adults-Only or Ratings Pending game to be sold to minors under seventeen. Managers who violate the law would be subject to a fine of $1,000 or 100 hours of community service for the first offense, and $5,000 or 500 hours of community service for each subsequent offense.

Independent reviews of the ESRB rating system would also be implemented in order to ensure video games are rated appropriately. Furthermore, the bill would endow the FTC with the authority to investigate misleading ratings, and gives the commission the go-ahead to take action if it sees a problem.

Also, the bill will aim to make sure that customers have an ability to directly register complaints with the FTC on such video games, and have the commission report on such complaints to Congress.

Finally, the FTC would be given the authority to conduct audits to ensure compliance with the new law.

California Representative Joe Baca lauded Clinton's efforts. "I applaud Senator Clinton for introducing this legislation, and I look forward to working with her to help parents protect their children from exposure to inappropriate and harmful images." Baca has introduced legislation in the House to reform the game rating system.

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