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Conn. Measure Would Ban Video Games Depicting Gun Violence

Legislation introduced in Connecticut, a state rocked by the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, would ban youths from playing "violent point-and-shoot" video games in arcades and public places.

The measure, introduced by Democratic state Sen. Toni Harp, would forbid operators of those establishments from allowing individuals younger than 18 to play those games on their premises.

What kinds of games would be included in the ban? The legislation would apply to games that use a "facsimile of a firearm," or an imitation that a "reasonable person would understand was intended to depict a weapon of violence."

The legislation also would establish a task force on violent video games, made up of various state legislators and representatives of state agencies, among others. That panel would be charged with studying the effects of violent video games on youth behavior, and make recommendations to state officials on policy.

The legislation has drawn objections from the Media Coalition, a New York-based organization that describes itself as supporting the "First Amendment right to produce and sell books, magazines, recordings, videotapes and videogames," and backing the public's access to opinion and entertainment.

The group's executive director, David Horowitz, while saying that its members "understand that this is a very difficult time for many people in Connecticut," argued in a memo that the legislation was misguided, as well as unconstitutional.

In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors. Horowitz, citing that decision, said there was no legal basis for restricting games in businesses or arcades, any more than there is for banning them from private homes.

He said his organization has many members in Connecticut, who had asked him to relay their concerns about the bill to lawmakers.

"We urge legislators to resist the temptation to blame the media for this tragedy," the coalition's memo states. "History has shown that each new medium from opera to the Internet has been blamed [for] causing violent or criminal activity. These past fears of the media were no less palpable than those we feel today."

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