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Supreme Court Strikes Down California Violent Videogame Law

Court says law violates First Amendment

The Supreme Court has struck down a California law banning the sale of violent videogames to minors.

The court said in a 7-2 ruling issued Monday that the 2005 law violates the First Amendment.

"The State wishes to create a wholly new category of content-based regulation that is permissible only for speech directed at children," the decision reads in part. "That is unprecedented and mistaken. This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence."

Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer dissented.

The law called for fining retailers up to $1,000 per game sold. It covered games "in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being," if the violence is presented in a way that a "reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors."

The law never took effect because lower courts in 2005 and 2007 also said it violated free speech rights. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an enthusiastic backer of it, appealed it to the Supreme Court.

Today, Common Sense Media CEO James Steyer issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s decision on Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association:

“Today’s decision is a disappointing one for parents, educators, and all who care about kids," said James Steyer, CEO of children's watchdog group Common Sense Media. "But the fight is far from over. Advocates for kids and families can work within the scope of this ruling to protect the best interests of kids. An overwhelmingly high percentage of parents would support a bill that would prevent their kids from walking into a store and buying the most ultra-violent and sexually violent of videogames."