SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois House approved Gov. Rod Blagojevich's proposed ban on selling violent and sexually explicit video games to children, sending it to the Senate yesterday over the complaints of several lawmakers who said the bill was flawed.
In an hourlong debate on the House floor, several legislators called the bill unconstitutional, unfair and intrusive to families who should determine what their children see.
"I'm asking you to stand up for the First Amendment. I'm asking you today to tell parents, 'That's your responsibility, not mine,'" Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, told the House.
The measure would require store owners to determine which video games are violent or sexually explicit and not sell them to children younger than 18. Violators could face a year in prison or a $5,000 fine.
Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, said the bill did not restrict parents from buying what they want for their children, and the video-game industry was not doing enough to keep minors from buying games that are potentially harmful.
"They're watching police officers getting their heads blown off. They're defecating on people. They get extra points for sleeping with prostitutes," she said.
Courts have overturned similar laws in Washington, Indiana and Missouri as too broadly written and a violation of free speech. But Chapa LaVia said new empirical evidence from a Harvard University study provides the necessary punch the measure needs to avoid constitutional problems — that children, for example, suffer post-trauma stress from playing some games over and over.
Several lawmakers urged Chapa LaVia to hold the bill to work out objections retailers have and to resolve potential constitutional problems. It passed the House 91-19.
The bill is H.B. 4023.