A Florida city is determined to pass a law restricting children’s access to violent computer games despite legal challenges to similar attempts elsewhere, and charges of censorship, its mayor said onFriday.
The ordinance proposed by North Miami City Council was prompted by fury in Miami’s large Haitian American community at Rockstar Game’s top-selling “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City,” in which players are urged to “kill the Haitians.”
Rockstar owners Take-Two Interactive Software Inc have agreed to cut the offending remarks from future issues.
“This is not about censorship, it’s about inciting violence,” said Mayor Joe Celestin, a Haitian American. “We’re going to take it all the way.”
The proposal, which won preliminary approval from the council this week but still has to go through a second vote, would impose a $250 fine on retailers who sell or rent to a minor, without parental approval, a game in which players kill or cause harm “to a human form.”
“If you say ‘kill the bad guy,’ I have no problem,” Celestin told Reuters.
“But when you target a race of people and say kill all the Haitians because they are drug dealers, gangsters and voodoo worshipers, and you get $2,000 for killing the Haitians, that is the kind of thing that, if you want your children to play that video, I think parental consent is required.”
The ordinance sparked criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union, which says it could cover everything but “Tom and Jerry, maybe,” and interfered with the parent-child relationship, and from retailers.
“Have they ever watched Cartoon Network?” North Miami video store owner Bob Richardson told the Miami Herald newspaper. “It’s the most violent network on television.”
North Miami’s bid to restrict the distribution of violent games is not a first in the United States. But all such attempts have proven unsuccessful to date.
U.S. Rep. Joe Baca, a California Democrat, has repeatedly tried to get backing for a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to make it a federal misdemeanor to sell violent games to minors.
A similar St. Louis County, Missouri, law was struck down by a federal appeals court, which ruled that games were a protected form of free speech, and a judge blocked a Washington state law that would have restricted sales of games depicting violence against law enforcement officers.