Indianapolis Mayor Leads Fight Against Video Game Violence
By Crystal D. Swann
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson signed an historic local ordinance July 17th which would restrict children's access to violent and sexually explicit video games without parental consent. The ordinance, requiring businesses to label coin-operated games featuring graphic violence or strong sexual content and prohibiting children under 18 from playing them without parental consent, set off a national fire storm that launched Mayor Peterson onto the national playing field.
Through a whirlwind media blitz, Mayor Peterson defended his ordinance and his city's decision to take such an unprecedented stand against youth violence on such shows as MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, and TALKBACK LIVE. The ordinance, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, pushed to the forefront the long debated belief that a child who actively participates in violence through a video game is more likely to commit violence in real life. "There are some special things about video games that are unique. One is that not only do they desensitize our children to violence, but they also teach some techniques of violence," said Mayor Peterson during an interview on the talk show, TALKBACK LIVE.
A study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which found that real-life violent video game play was positively related to aggressive behavior and delinquency was the impetus for the Indianapolis law. After consulting a law professor about the legality of his idea, the newly elected mayor, proposed the video game violence ordinance because "he wanted to do something about the culture of violence children are subjected to almost from the day they are born, said spokesman Steve Campbell.
But Indianapolis' ordinance is designed to do more than simply restrict kids' access to these games. As Mayor Peterson stated, "I think it's important to emphasize that in addition to what we can keep our kids away from with this ordinance, we're raising attention to an issue that I think is vitally important. Most parents have no idea about the images their children are seeing and hearing because they don't share in these things. And part of what we're accomplishing here is to call attention to parents to what their kids are seeing and playing on a daily basis."
The ordinance, which takes effect September 1, has drawn criticism from the video-game industry, Indiana Civil Liberties Union, and others who feel that it is not the government's responsibility to limit the games a child plays in a video arcade. In response to those critics Mayor Peterson stated that, "the key (of this ordinance) is to empower parents to be able to make these decisions, not for the government to make the decisions for them ... just as a parent can allow their child to watch a R-rated movie by accompanying them to the movie, so can a parent allow their child to play one of these gruesome and sexually explicit video games by accompanying them."
Any business found violating the ordinance can be fined $200.00 per day per violation. A business with three violations in a year is forbidden to offer such games and could have its amusement location license revoked. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, at least six other states and several other towns are considering similar laws. The Indianapolis ordinance is supported by The Fraternal Order of Police, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Indiana State Police, Boys & Girls Club, and many other social and civic organizations.