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Court Shoots Down Tighter Restrictions on Violent Video Games

Parents at the Great Mall support keeping violent video games out of the hands of minors, and don't consider censorship and First Amendment rights an issue.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 7-2 vote, struck down a California law that would have banned the sale or rental of violent video games to children under 18.

The court majority said the games are protected by the First Amendment right of free speech.

"Like protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas -- and even social messages,"Justice Antonin Scalia. "That suffices to confer First Amendment protection."

Milpitas Patch asked parents in front of the  at the Great Mall if they agreed with the ruling. No one cited free speech, but they said parents should be proactive about restricting violent video games at home.

Edwin Monreal of Milpitas said he was neutral on the ruling. But at home, his six-year-old plays Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. Any games with guns and blood, he said, "I don't encourage it."

And since he buys the games, he said he can control what his son Edric plays.

Carol Caalim of Berryessa said her boys, 16 and 10, ask for the violent games, but she doesn't allow it. Instead they play Wii sports, like football and soccer.

She said she would support tighter restrictions on violent video games.

Myrna Torres of San Jose said she would have preferred to have the law restricting minors from buying violent video games. Torres is divorced with two sons, and does not allow them to play video games at her house.

"Parents should take ownership and make decisions of what children are watching," she said. "We decide what's better."

But her ex-husband has a different approach. Her older son, who is 11, said he plays Black Ops and Call of Duty (rated for 17 years and up) at his father's house.

Portable video games have parental ratings on them, due to the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Mature (M) is for ages 17 and up–they may contain intense violence sexual content or strong language. Adults only (A) is for ages 18 and up–and may show prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and nudity. 

 asks minors for a California ID when they buy games rated Mature or Adult. Altogether there are six ratings.

Joaquin Quintero of San Jose said having a law would have created an extra check, not a bottleneck, and provide parents extra awareness to know what they're kids are doing.

Quintero's daughter doesn't play violent games. He himself plays Call of Duty on his PlayStation 3. 

Kids can be desensitized seeing violence on the screen, he said. A parent would know if the kid is mature enough or not to play the game. For example, if the kid has anger management issues.

These days on-screen violence is at a new level. Quintero compares the '80s movie Exorcist, which people thought was scary then, he said, to today's horror flick series Saw.

"It's gory," he said, adding that the kids "just get desensitized." 

Monday's court ruling was from a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose in 2005 by two industry groups, the Entertainment Merchants Association and the Entertainment Software Association.

The high court upheld rulings by U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte of San Jose in 2007 and the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco in 2009 that struck down the law.

The 2005 law was authored by Lee, who was then an assemblyman. It was blocked from going into effect by an injunction issued by Whyte.

-Bay City News contributed to this report.

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