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D.C. Seeks Sales Ban On Violent Games

Williams, Fenty Back Limits for Minors

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2005; Page B01

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and most D.C. Council members say they want to ban the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors, linking the popular games to juvenile violence.

Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) and 11 colleagues are scheduled to introduce a measure today that would limit the sale of such games as the Grand Theft Auto series, Halo 2 and Mortal Kombat. A store that sells the games to minors could lose its business license and face a fine of as much as $10,000.

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"They are unbelievably misogynistic and geared toward making whoever is playing perpetuate the worst parts of our society,'' Fenty said.

Referring to Grand Theft Auto, he said the game "awards points for killing police officers and assaulting women, and it is done in a way that glorifies violence."

Williams (D), at his weekly media briefing, said he would support a ban. "I've actually seen the game," he said. "It's a horrible game for kids to be using."

The legal outlook for such a measure is uncertain. Federal appeals courts have rejected as unconstitutional the efforts by St. Louis County and Indianapolis to regulate video games.

Fenty said the games contribute to a wave of youth car thefts and related violence.

"I can't say that a particular driver watched [the game] and went out and did something. I am saying that a whole generation of kids in this city are watching these games and emulating them,'' Fenty said.

The games have been the subject of lawsuits and attempts by elected leaders to ban or limit their sales.

In December, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) proposed making it illegal for anyone younger than 18 to buy violent or sexually explicit games.

Similar bans have been considered in Michigan.

Blagojevich criticized the $7 billion video game industry for failing to find better ways to keep "adult material out of the hands of minors," and cited evidence that many production companies in the intensely competitive business marketed violent games to boys younger than 17.

According to the National Law Journal, a Tennessee lawsuit blames Grand Theft Auto for the death of a man killed by teenagers.

In a written statement, Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, said the group strongly encouraged retailers to adopt policies requiring ID checks before selling games that are rated "M" for mature.

"In this regard, we share Councilman Fenty's objective,'' the statement said. "But we oppose any government enacted restrictions on content as unconstitutional restraints on creative and artistic expression. Further, Federal Court rulings already struck down limitations like what Councilman Fenty introduced and the same fate awaits his proposal."

Fenty's legislation would ban the sale of M-rated games to anyone younger than 17 and restrict games labeled "AO," for adults only, to those older than 18.

Fenty, chairman of the council's Human Services Committee and a likely mayoral candidate, has scheduled a news conference today at First Rock Baptist Church in Southeast Washington to announce the legislation.


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