CHICAGO – Gov. Rod Blagojevich (search) is proposing to make it a misdemeanor for businesses to sell violent and sexually explicit video games to minors, a step that other states have tried with little success.
Blagojevich's proposed legislation would prohibit the distribution, sale, rental and availability of mature video games to children younger than 18.
"We're talking about violent games that use realistic depiction of human-on-human violence, video games that include dismemberment and disfigurement, video games where the kids control the process," Blagojevich said Thursday.
Current Illinois law does not prohibit selling or renting video games to children, regardless of how violent or sexually explicit the games may be. Retailers are not supposed to sell them to people under 17 but have been blamed for lax enforcement.
Rick Baki, 16, said he wouldn't let a law keep him from playing his favorite games, including the much-maligned "Grand Theft Auto (search)" series, which puts players in the mind of a carjacker on a violent crime spree. He said he could get an older sibling or maybe his mom to buy the games, or even find them online.
"I think it's stupid to prohibit them," Baki said as he left Whitney Young High School in Chicago on Thursday. "Who's Governor Rod to say I can't buy the games I want to?"
Some parents saw merit in the idea.
"We need to stop children from seeing the violence and getting their hands on anything they want to," Mark Brummer said after buying football and hunting video games for his 7-year-old son at a Champaign mall.
Blagojevich said he decided to crack down after hearing about the new video game "JFK Reloaded (search)," which puts the player in the role of President Kennedy's assassin.
"If you're 18 or older and you're a grown-up and an adult, that's your business," the governor said. "But I don't believe that my 8-year-old daughter has a constitutional right to cut somebody's head off in a game that she plays."
Under the governor's plan, the proposed fine for violating the bans would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison or a $5,000 fine.
The proposed legislation also would require retailers to label violent or sexually explicit video games. Video games now are rated with general labels such as "M" for "mature."
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association blasted the governor's proposal as a way for retailers to become "the violence and sensitivity police for the state of Illinois."
"This is not just about video games. This is about the government asking their taxpaying, tax-generating and employing companies to do what parents should be doing. It's wrong," said David Vite, president and chief executive officer of the association, which represents about 23,000 stores statewide.
Other states have tried similar bans with little success.
A federal judge in July struck down Washington state's ban on selling some violent video games to minors, calling it a violation of free speech because it banned violence against police officers but not other depictions of violence, and too broad because it was unclear what games would fall under the ban.
Last year, a federal appeals court struck down a St. Louis County, Mo., ordinance that required children under 17 to have parental consent before they could buy violent or sexually explicit video games or play similar arcade games. A similar ordinance in Indianapolis was struck down by a federal appeals court in Chicago.