The bill comes as a report from the New Jersey SAFE Task Force on Gun Protection, Addiction, released by the state Attorney General last week, listed the regulation of violent video games among its recommendations to mend the root causes of mass violence.
Games that are meant for older, more mature audiences have no place in places where children can easily access them. Video games alone do not influence violent behavior, but they can play a role. Some of the most prolific mass shootings not just in this country, but in the world had links to violent video games. The longer a child is exposed to video games where killing is the sole objective, the greater the chance that he or she will become numb to this type of behavior and even consider it acceptable. This bill would ensure that video games with graphic adult content would not be available to children who are not old enough to make a distinction between fantasy and reality.
My bill would prohibit operators of a place of public accommodation from making video games with an Entertainment Software Rating Board rating of “mature” or “adults only” available for use by the public. The bill specifies that a violation of the bill would be considered an unlawful practice. An unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud Act is punishable by a monetary penalty of no more than $10,000 for a first offense, and no more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense. In addition, a violation can result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured.
For the purposes of this bill, “place of public accommodation” means any inn, tavern, roadhouse, hotel, motel, trailer camp, summer camp, day camp, or resort camp, whether for entertainment of transient guests or accommodation of those seeking health, recreation or rest; any producer, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retail shop, store, establishment, or concession dealing with goods or services of any kind; any restaurant, eating house, or place where food is sold for consumption on the premises; any place maintained for the sale of ice cream, ice and fruit preparations or their derivatives, soda water or confections, or where any beverages of any kind are retailed for consumption on the premises; any garage, any public conveyance operated on land or water, or in the air, any stations and terminals thereof; any bathhouse, boardwalk, or seashore accommodation; any auditorium, meeting place, or hall; any theatre, motion-picture house, music hall, roof garden, skating rink, swimming pool, amusement and recreation park, fair, bowling alley, gymnasium, shooting gallery, billiard and pool parlor, or other place of amusement; any comfort station; any dispensary, clinic or hospital; any public library; any kindergarten, primary and secondary school, trade or business school, high school, academy, college and university, or any educational institution under the supervision of the State Board of Education, or the Commissioner of Education of New Jersey.
Children today are exposed to violent images more than ever. Violent video games can desensitize children to violence and give them a warped version of reality where violence and death have no consequences outside their TV screens. This bill hopes to minimize this exposure, which if prolonged and coupled with other factors can have a devastating effect.