An Illinois state representative wanted to prohibit the sale of all violent video games in a bid to reduce real-life criminal activity. The call for the ban came amid the rising incidence of carjackings and other types of lawless violence.
Rep. Marcus Evans, a Democratic state representative from South Side in Chicago, filed a bill that seeks to prohibit the sale of Grand Theft Auto and many other video games that promote violence and crime. On Friday, Evans submitted HB3531 for consideration, a measure that seeks to amend a 2012 law preventing the sale to minors of certain video games. If the state legislature approves the bill, passes it, and the governor signs it into law, it would expand the prohibition from minors to everyone, regardless of age.
In a report published by online news outfit Polygon, Evans said video games that depict "psychological harm" and those showing "motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present," alter the mindset of players by making them believe it is okay to do such things. "The bill would prohibit the sale of some of these games that promote the activities that we're suffering from in our communities," the state representative said.
Evans revealed the idea is not originally his but broached to him in January by Early Walker, founder of Operation Safe Pump and Safe Shop initiative. Walker started the initiative to minimise carjacking incidents at shopping centres and gas stations. To achieve this goal, Operation Safe Pump posts security personnel from the Kates Detective and Security Agency in places with high carjacking incidences.
Walker said he met with several state legislators to broach the idea of banning violent video games after seeing similarities in actual carjacking incidents to the actions that players make in video games like Grand Theft Auto. "I feel like this game has become a huge issue in this spectrum. When you compare the two, you see harsh similarities as it relates to these carjackings," Walker said. According to the Chicago Police Department, there were about 218 carjacking reports in January of this year.
Aside from addressing the issue of carjacking, Evans' bill also seeks to change the legal definition of a "violent video game." HB3531 identifies such games as videos where players "control a character within the video game that encourages the perpetuation of human-on-human violence in which the player kills or otherwise causes serious physical or psychological harm to another human or an animal."
Despite a 2011 Supreme Court ruling qualifying video games as free speech, Walker believes he can help muster bipartisan support for the bill in Springfield to prohibit the sales of such games in Illinois. The Verge reported at the time that the Supreme Court struck down a newly passed legislation in California, stating that lawmakers in the Golden State cannot ban the sale of violent video games, as they are a form of free speech.