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Supreme Court: Calif. Ban On Violent Video Games Unconstitutional

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SACRAMENTO (CBS) — The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a move to regulate the sale or rental of video games to children in California, arguing that protections from violent content may “restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed”.

The high court’s ruling overturned the previous ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento that said the law violated minors’ rights under the First Amendment.

Justice Antonin Scalia defended the 7-2 vote, pointing to the American tradition of children being exposed to graphic violence in fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White.

“Certainly the books we give children to read — or read to them when they are younger — contain no shortage of gore,” Scalia said.

Professor Bradley Joondeph, constitutional law expert at Santa Clara University told KNX 1070 that the ban was likely always headed toward a showdown with the Bill of Rights.

“[The appellate court] held that this was unconstitutional because it singles out expression based on its content or its message, and if there’s one thing the First Amendment generally prohibits, it’s exactly that,” said Joondeph.

Under the proposed law, retailers statewide would have been prohibited from selling or renting video games labeled “violent” to minors. Violators would have faced up to a $1,000 fine for each infraction.

More than 46 million American households have at least one video-game system, with the industry bringing in at least $18 billion in 2010, according to the Associated Press.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports some parents applauded the ruling as a victory for those who simply don’t have time to monitor all the games their kids are playing.

“Single parents have less time with the kids,” said one dad. “It’s telling parents to be parents.”

Despite the setback, California may ultimately find a constitutional loophole through which to enact much of the same language contained in the now-defeated measure.

“You could do things like require that [violent video games] be placed in certain areas of the store, you could have mandatory ratings systems, things of that nature,” said Joodeph.

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