Indianapolis mayor signs law restricting youth access to violent video games
By The Associated Press
|Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, center, answers
questions yesterday about the violent video games ordinance, as City-County
Councillor Rozelle Boyd, right, and Fraternal Order of Police President Lt.
Dave Young, left, look on at the City-County Building.
INDIANAPOLIS Coin-operated video games in which characters are
decapitated, dismembered, mutilated or maimed will soon be off-limits to
children following the enactment of a city-wide violent video game
Mayor Bart Peterson signed the ordinance into law yesterday, saying it
was an opportunity for the city to put its foot down on what he called a
burgeoning culture of violence.
The ordinance requires coin-operated games featuring graphic violence
or strong sexual content to have warning labels and be kept at least 10 feet
from nonviolent games. They must also be separated by a curtain or wall so
minors cannot view them. The law bars people under the age of 18 from such
games unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Peterson called the ordinance believed to be the first of its
kind in a major U.S. city a necessary first step.
"The importance of it is that it's an effort to begin to attack the
culture of violence that I believe surrounds our young people these days
virtually from the day they're born," the mayor said.
The ordinance will go into effect Sept. 1 and will be enforced by the
Indianapolis Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department.
Businesses violating the new rules could be fined $200 a day for each
violation, and a business with three violations in one year could be forbidden
from offering violent games or have its amusement license revoked.
Elliott Portnoy, an attorney representing national coin-operated video
game industry groups, said his clients are considering taking legal action
against the city.
"From the beginning the industry has believed that this ordinance is
both unnecessary and unconstitutional, and those underlying reasons for the
industry's opposition remain entirely unchanged at this time," Portnoy said
from his Washington, D.C., office.
"To be blunt, there's not a shred of evidence to suggest that the
playing of violent video games has had any negative or violent effect on anyone
in Indianapolis or Marion County."
Peterson agrees that violent arcade games are not solely to blame for
recent acts of youth violence, but he says they definitely play a part. He says
the city has the power to enforce the new ordinance because it regulates
arcades and other businesses that often have coin-operated games, such as
restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters.
"Without a city permit you cannot display, and make available for use,
a video game," Peterson said. "So that gives us the authority to say that if
you're going to display them, you've got to display them a certain way."
Indiana Civil Liberties Union attorney Ken Falk said the ordinance
which he believes is the first of its kind may impinge on First
"I certainly think it has some potential problems," he
said. "I think it is an expressive activity which is being,
potentially, unduly restricted."
Constitutionality aside, one Purdue University professor believes the
ordinance faces an even greater problem.
"It's not going to do any good, let's put it that way," said John
Sherry, an assistant professor of communication who's researching the effects
violent video games have on children.
Sherry believes there is little, if any, correlation between violent
games and aggression in young people.
"Do we have any reason from the literature to suspect that these kids
who are playing violent video games will become antisocially destructive?" he
asked. "From the social science side, we don't. From a social science point of
view there's no compelling reason (for Peterson) to do what he's doing."
Some of those who will be most affected by the new ordinance
"I think it's an OK idea, but I like playing some of the violent
games, so I guess it kind of hurts me," said Stephen Prunier, 13.
He was with his 16-year-old sister, Jenni Prunier, at an Indianapolis
arcade, playing a relatively old-fashioned and nonviolent
basketball game. Both agreed that violent video games don't promote violent
acts, and they said the ordinance would simply become another rule kids would
find a way around.
"If we don't play them in an arcade, we're going to get the Nintendo
64 game and play them at home," Jenni Prunier said. "It won't make a
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