Why Lawmakers Can't Do Much About Violence in Entertainment

Despite all the rhetoric, addressing violence in entertainment proves difficult for lawmakers.

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"He didn't think the evidence was there, and if there was something it would be just a tiny piece of the puzzle. It really wasn't the most significant issue," he says.

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Biden did warn the industry executives present in the meeting that they had a PR issue on there hands, says Ferguson. And so far it appears they and the movie industry are taking his advice. Both have emphasized giving parents the tools to supervise their children's habits, with the MPAA and the ESRB (which regulates video game ratings) touting a FTC study that found an all-time high compliance with their ratings systems.

Yet the N.Y. Daily News reports that the video game lobby has put pressure on another legislative attempt to research violent video games. Earlier this month Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, offered a Department Justice study of violent video games' connection to mass shootings as an amendment to gun control legislation. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., then proposed an amendment to Grassley's proposal that would expand the study to 13 additional areas associated with violence like bullying, mental illness and child abuse. According to the Daily News report, Senate sources say video game lobbyists were behind Coon's move in attempt to water down the study.

Even if Grassley's, Rockefeller's or any study proved a conclusive and significant link between violent media and violent behavior, the legislative steps to be taken next are unclear. In the wake of Columbine, some states passed laws to regulate the video game industry, all of which were knocked down by courts on First Amendment grounds. Most notably, in Brown v. Electronic Merchants Association, the Supreme Court struck down a California law prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, rendering a number of other such state laws unconstitutional.

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For its part, the FTC examines the ratings systems within various entertainment industries, their marketing strategies, and if retailers are abiding by said ratings. But the FTC cannot regulate those industries themselves; it is up to industries to punish those who disobey their ratings guidelines.

Rockefeller also has said he would like to give the FCC more authority to address violence in the media. The FCC, which is concerned primarily with television and not movies or video games, declined to comment on the issue. Considering the troubles gun regulation efforts—an issue with far more visibility and momentum—have met in Congress, it's hard to imagine legislative attempts to address violent entertainment getting very far either.

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