So This AgainThis week, the unconstitutional foray by state legislators comes from New York:
The New York Assembly passed a bill today that would make selling or renting videogames with mature content to minors a class E felony, the same class that includes crimes such as incest.
Bill no. A08696 passed 130-10 just five days after the bill was introduced. The bill would make it illegal to sell or rent to minors games “which include depraved violence and indecent images that are accessible to a user.”
This includes images depicting “rape, dismemberment, physical torture, mutilation or evisceration of a human being” or depictions of a “person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct or sado-masochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors.”
The bill would make selling or renting such games to minors a class E felony, the same class as riot in the first degree, criminal anarchy, first degree aggravated harassment, bigamy and wiretapping, according to New York penal law. A class E felony carries penalties of up to four years on prison.
Here's what I love about this country: "a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity" (in other words, boobies) is given the same "harmful" status as "sado-masochistic abuse", "mutilation or evisceration of a human being", "rape", and "physical torture." Well, done, nudity Gestapo.
Here's the thing about these stupid bills: they remind me of the first time I saw a woman who looked like a giraffe. Now a tall woman doesn't automatically look like a giraffe, but if she wears heels that are just a little too high and walks just a little too slow, she starts to wobble, and then she looks like a giraffe.
The first time I saw a woman like this, I was astounded. A woman who looks like a giraffe! It was the funniest story ever. Now I see at least one a week. It's no longer remarkable.
That's why I don't get all worked up about these bills anymore: they're just so common. They're all written by people with the intelligence of seventh graders. And phrases like "depraved violence" and "indecent images", not to mention "which is harmful to minors", are all so vague as to clearly be unconstitutional.
These Einsteins, though, thought they were somehow being clever by doing this:
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D) proposed the bill, according to GamePolitics, which also points out a severabililty clause within the bill. The clause states that if any one portion of the bill is deemed unconstitutional, that ruling will not invalidate the remainder of the bill.
This is the funniest piece of all. Even THEY know the bill is unconstitutional, so they thought they would cover their asses this way. Except, to the best of my knowledge, all a judge has to do is say "this law is unconstitutional--period" and they're finished. Which is what is going to happen. And oh-by-the-way they'll also be scratching a check to the ESA for legal fees.
I don't want underage consumers buying games that are inappropriate for them. But categorizing an improper sale as worthy of a maximum of four years in prison (!) is just embarrassingly stupid.
The thing about these bills, though, is that they'll never go away, and they're almost impossible to vote against, because if you do, your opponent runs an ad like this:
Dewey Swindle voted AGAINST a law protecting our children from seeing scenes of torture and rape in video games. Is this the kind of man you want representing us in Washington?
Nothing works in politics (and governance) like fear. So these bills will keep getting passed and we have to hope that judges read the Constitution.