California Violent Game Law Shot Down

The courts have blocked yet another state law preventing the sale of violent video games to minors. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte found that California's video game law unfairly restricts the First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.

The law made it illegal for a retailer to sell a game to a minor that included the "killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being."

Laws in Illinois and Michigan have also been previously shot down on constitutional grounds, and legislation in the city of Indianapolis and Saint Louis County, Mo. have met a similar fate.


"For the foregoing reasons, the court grants the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction," ordered Whyte's 17-page opinion. "The defendants and their agents are hereby preliminarily enjoined from enforcing any provision of the Act."

The courts continued fight against violent video game laws also calls into question whether proposed federal legislation from Senator Hillary Clinton introduced last week has any chance of success.

Whyte questioned California's claim that violent video games could cause psychological or other harm to children. He also said that the law would restrict children's First Amendment rights to freedom of information.

But supporters of violent game legislation say retailers are not holding up their end of the bargain by ahering to the ESRB rating system and refusing the sale of questionable titles to minors.

The argument may eventually make it to the Supreme Court. While the high court has said even minors have free expression rights, it has not addressed this particular topic directly.

The video game industry applauded the decision. "For the sixth time in five years, federal courts have now blocked or struck down these state and local laws seeking to regulate the sale of games to minors based on their content, and none have upheld such statutes," ESA president Douglas Lowenstein said in a statement.

Attorneys for the state are expected to appeal the decision.

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