Yee, video game makers react to SCOTUS ruling

Those for and against the California law that sought to ban sales of violent video games to minors have now weighed in on today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that shoots the laws down. (Read more on the ruling here.)

State Sen. Leland Yee, the law’s author, said Monday at a news conference in San Francisco that he’s disappointed that the court “has decided it’s going to side with corporate America and Walmart against our children.”

Yee, D-San Francisco, who holds a doctorate in child psychology, said he believes the fact that this ruling came at the very end of the high court’s term meant it was a complex, tough decision.

San Francisco Deputy Police Chief Kevin Cashman, at Yee’s news conference, said kids see too much violence at too early an age, and police are also concerned that violent games too often depict law enforcement officers as targets.

Dr. George Fouras, representing the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the San Francisco Medical Society, said these games, unlike Saturday-morning cartoons, “expose kids to behavior that is not acceptable in reality” and can harm kids’ cognitive development and decision-making ability. Dr. Shannon Udovic, speaking for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ California branch, said the law’s supporters are resolved to “continue the work that so many of us have been doing in bringing this important issue to parents’ minds.”

Entertainment Software Association President and CEO Michael Gallagher, whose video game industry trade group was one of this case’s plaintiffs, told reporters on a conference call that the ruling is “an overwhelming endorsement of the first amendment, the right to free expression and free speech, and also of the rights of parents.”

Gallagher noted this was the 13th consecutive decision, albeit the most important, upholding video game makers’ rights; meanwhile, he said, various governments have spent uncounted millions only to create uncertainty in the marketplace. He said he appreciated the 180 signatories to 27 friend-of-the-court briefs filed on his cause’s behalf, including various social-science and medical professionals as well as 10 state attorneys general.

Paul Smith, the ESA’s lawyer, said we seldom see so strong, clear and sweeping a decision from the Supreme Court the first time it tackles an issue such as this. He said the court found games are speech no different than books or movies, and the court isn’t in the business of carving out new exceptions to the First Amendment; science doesn’t bear out claims that the games are harmful, he added, and the law merely took control away from parents and gave it to government.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.