Senators Move to Restrict Game Sales

Acting on a promise first made in July of this year to take action against violent and lewd video game sales, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday announced that she would introduce a bill to protect children from such games when congress reconvenes in two weeks. The bill is being co-sponsored by Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman.

Clinton led the call in July to ask for a Federal Trade Commission investigation into the discovery of lewd content in the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game. The FTC began an investigation later that month. The game was then recalled and a version without the questionable scenes was released in September.

Restrictions on the sale of such video games to adults are not a part of the proposed legislation, Clinton stressed. She explained that her actions were about protecting children, and ensuring minors could not easily obtain these titles.

"There is a growing body of evidence that points to a link between violent videos and aggressive behavior in children," Senator Lieberman added. "We are not interested in censoring videos meant for adult entertainment but we do want to ensure that these videos are not purchased by minors."

Clinton's office also released details of a study performed by the National Institute on Media and the Family that showed retailers were becoming less strict about video game sales. Boys as young as nine years of age were allowed to purchase "mature" rated games four out of every ten times.

The bill, called the Family Entertainment Protection Act, would consist of five parts. The first would federally prohibit the sale of mature or adults-only rated games to those under the age of 17. It is unclear if this portion of the law would stand constitutional scrutiny, as similar laws have been found to violate the First Amendment rights of video game manufacturers.

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 ensure 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.

But those ready to blame Hillary Clinton for the Capitol Hill investigations into video game sales should instead look to Congress at large; the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly 355 to 21 to investigate Grand Theft Auto in July, and a similar resolution was presented in the Senate.

The ESRB, however, rejected the need for Federal oversight when it comes to video games. In a statement, the group said it shares "Senator Clinton's commitment to effective enforcement of the ESRB ratings by retailers, and we appreciate the fact that she has sought to draft a more thoughtful proposal in this area than most others."

"However, we strongly oppose the bill," the statement continued. "We believe the combination of trustworthy ESRB ratings, parental education, voluntary retail enforcement of ESRB ratings, and, most recently, the major announcement that all next generation video game consoles will include parental control systems, makes Senator Clinton's bill unnecessary."

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