Elected officials, religious leaders and civic activists rallied across California yesterday (April 8) to support two bills pending before the legislature that would restrict the sale of violent video

Elected officials, religious leaders and civic activists rallied across California yesterday (April 8) to support two bills pending before the legislature that would restrict the sale of violent video games to minors.

In coordinated events in Los Angeles, Fresno, Mountain View and San Mateo, people spoke out in favor of the bills introduced earlier this year by state Assemblyman Leland Yee.

"It's important for us to ensure that these video games are not causing damaging psychological effects on children," Cindy Montanez, a member of the state Assembly and a principal co-author of the bills, said at the Los Angeles event.

Speaking to crowds against a background of bloody pictures excerpted from games like "Duke Nukem" and "Postal 2," Montanez said the bills were needed to protect kids.

Frederick Murph, senior minister of the Brookins Community AME Church in Los Angeles, said parents must "teach children that they have a moral responsibility to live the right way."

The California bills, introduced in January, mirror laws passed in cities and states across the country that have been blocked or struck down by federal courts as unconstitutional. One bill would classify games that "visually depict serious injury to human beings in a manner that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel" as being "harmful matter to children." The distribution of such material is restricted under state law.

The second bill requires retailers to stock "Mature" games in places not easily seen by kids. Games with a "Mature" rating issued by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board are not intended for children under 17.

Hearings on the bills are scheduled at the state capitol next week. Yee has said he expects support from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor-turned-politician whose voice and likeness appear in a game based on his "Terminator" movies.

But the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the video game industry's trade group, has condemned measures like Yee's as unnecessary and an infringement on the rights of game makers.

"We support industry self-regulation," Gail Markels, senior vice president and general counsel of the ESA, told Reuters. "We also talk to legislators and explain to them that video games (are) protected speech."

Federal courts have struck down ordinances in Indianapolis and St. Louis County, Missouri, restricting access by minors to games, and courts have blocked the enforcement of a law in Washington state restricting some types of violent games. Generally, such courts have seen games as an artistic form of free speech and considered the ordinances an unconstitutional infringement on speech rights.

But despite the court actions, state and local governments have pressed ahead with new measures. The New York City Council recently held hearings on a proposal. State and local bills are also pending in Florida, and cities across the country have debated the issue, as well.


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