Violent Video Game Tax Defeated in Oklahoma Legislature

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Source: “Modern Warfare 3,” GamerZines.com (accessed Feb. 28, 2012)

A bill levying a 1% sales tax on violent video games was defeated 5-6 on Feb. 20, 2012 by the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation. Introduced by State Rep. William Fourkiller (D-OK), House Bill 2696 sought to raise funds for programs battling childhood obesity and bullying by taxing the sale of “violent video games,” which he defined as having a rating of “Teen,” “Mature,” or “Adults Only,” by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

The proposed tax would have raised money from violent games with a “Mature” rating, such as Modern Warfare 3 and Twisted Metal, and nonviolent games with a “Teen” rating including Rock Band and Dance Central 2.

Fourkiller amended the bill to remove the tax and instead proposed the creation of a task force to examine the health effects of violent video games on children. “The Task Force shall seek to analyze and address the major challenges relating to the health, well-being and education of the children in this state associated with video games and computer games and resulting in decreased physical activity and increased aggression,” the amended bill read.

According to minutes of the subcommittee hearing posted by Oklahoma Watchdog, Rep. Pat Owenby (R-OK) asked, “Why [tax] just video games? Why not French fries or rap music or movies?” Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-OK) added, “We could have a task force on a multitude of reasons children are obese.” Fourkiller responded, “We have to start somewhere. There’s no magic bullet that will solve these issues, but I want to raise awareness of these two issues.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics’s Council on Communications and Media wrote in a Nov. 1, 2009 policy statement that “Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents.”

On June 27, 2011, the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association that a 2005 law criminalizing the sale of violent video games to minors violated free speech rights. The majority opinion stated: “California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively.” The average video game player is 35 years old, with 75% of game players aged 18 years or older.

Sources:

Kyle Orland, “Failed Anti-game Legislation Will Cost California Nearly $1.8 Million,” ArsTechnica.com, Feb. 22, 2012

Matt Peckham, “Good News: Oklahoma ‘Violent’ Video Games Bill Tossed,” Time.com, Feb. 28, 2012

Peter J. Rudy, “Notes from the A&B Subcommittee on Revenue and Taxation 2-20-12,” Oklahoma.Watchdog.org, Feb. 20, 2012