The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a controversial California law that would have prohibited the sale of “violent” video games to minors in a landmark 7-2 vote.
According to Justice Antonin Scalia, the proposed ban is utterly unconstitutional and infringes on free speech rights.
The nation’s highest court also rejected California’s insistence that violent games are equivalent to sexual material – which the state can supposedly restrict to “protect” children.
“Even where the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the court’s ruling.
Nevertheless, Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas dissented, while Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito stated they would have issued a narrower ruling.
“‘The Freedom of Speech,’ as originally understood does not include a right to speak to minors without going through the minors’ parents or guardians,” Thomas opined.
Scalia, however, disagreed with the interpretation of the First Amendment as offered by Thomas.
“California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed. As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers ’till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy.’
“… [And] because the Act imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech, it is invalid unless California can demonstrate that it passes strict scrutiny – that is, unless it is justified by a compelling government interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest… [But] California cannot meet that standard. At the outset, it acknowledges that it cannot show a direct causal link between violent video games and harm to minors.
“…As a means of assisting concerned parents [the Act] is seriously overinclusive because it abridges the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents (and aunts and uncles) think violent video games are a harmless pastime… The overbreadth in achieving one goal is not cured by the underbreadth in achieving the other. Legislation such as this, which is neither fish nor fowl, cannot survive strict scrutiny.”