Should kids have access to violent games?

SACRAMENTO The legal question before the U.S. Supreme Court is a tough one: Are the free speech rights of children more important than helping parents keep violent video games away from them?

San Francisco Sen. Leland Yee, who is also a child psychologist, is excited the justices could reinstate the law he championed.

"With the ultra violent video game law, we say, 'Kids, these are harmful to you and we have a state interest in protecting you,'" said Yee. "These games really teach our children how to kill, maim and hurt individuals."

The 2005 California law prohibiting the sale or rental of such games to minors never took effect because the industry immediately challenged its constitutionality.

After winning two rounds in the lower courts, the Entertainment Software Association is confident the high court will side with them too.

"It should be treated just like movies, music, books and other forms of media, that there's a first amendment constitutional protection to the great games that are made by our industry," said Michael Gallagher of the Entertainment Software Association.

The gaming industry already labels the packaging with labels ranging from E-Everyone to M-Mature Audiences.

Still, parents liked the ban because it means their kids will have to ask them to buy it.

"The parents should be responsible for what their kids have, especially when its violent of anything other than PG-13," said parent Savannah Sewell.

But the Supreme Court lately has favored free speech, which doesn't bode well for supporters of the video game ban. Just last week, the justices struck down a federal law banning videos showing animal cruelty.

"We do have a court that seems inclined to interpret the first amendment to protect free speech rights," said Leslie Gielow Jacobs, a professor at the McGeorge School of Law. "All the courts that have considered it have said that video games are speech."

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