Illinois rep. wants to ban ‘all violent video games’ to curb violence

An Illinois legislator is looking to ban the sale of all violent video games in the state, according to amendments that would adjust a 2012 law, which currently keeps retailers from selling certain violent games to minors. The documents were filed on Friday by Rep. Marcus C. Evans, Jr. in response to an increase in carjackings and violent crime in Chicago.

House Bill 3531 would prevent the sale of all “violent video games” in the state. As defined in the bill, a violent video game is described as one that “allows a user or player to control a character within the video game that is encouraged to perpetuate human-on-human violence in which the player kills or otherwise causes serious physical or psychological harm to another human or an animal.”

Elsewhere in the amendments, legislators look to change the definition of “serious physical harm” to include carjacking, among other things. Rates of carjacking have increased across Chicago, with 218 incidents reported to police in January, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “The bill would prohibit the sale of some of these games that promote the activities that we’re suffering from in our communities,” Evans told the Sun-Times.

A $1,000 fine was proposed for those that sell or rent a violent video game.

The bill will certainly face scrutiny. In 2011, the Supreme Court said that California legislators could not ban the sale of violent video games to minors — that video games qualify as free speech, as The Verge reported at the time.

“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world),” Supreme Court Justice Scalia wrote. “That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.”

In 2020, the American Psychological Association reported there is little scientific evidence that supports a “causal link between violent video games and violent behavior.”

“Violence is a complex social problem that likely stems from many factors that warrant attention from researchers, policymakers and the public,” APA president Sandra L. Shullman wrote in the report. “Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which we know from the research is a major predictor of future violence.”

However, the APA did suggest there was a “small, reliable association” with increased aggression, like “yelling and pushing,” but that these aggressions do not “extend to more violent outcomes.” These are similar findings to an international study published in 2018.

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