Gun Violence Solution: Tax Violent Video Games

GOP Rep. Diane Franklin of rural Camdenton, Missouri has an idea for reducing gun violence: a 1% sales tax on violent video games in response to the deadly Sandy Hook shootings, which could go to fund mental health programs and law enforcement protections against mass shooters.

The tax would be levied on games rated "Teen," "Mature," and "Adult-Only," by the Entertainment Software Review Board, a self-regulatory industry organization.

“History shows there is a mental health component to these shootings,” said Franklin.

The rating board classifies games as "Teen" if they contain violence, suggestive themes or crude humor; "Mature" if they contain intense violence and gore, and "Adults Only" if they contain gambling and strong sexual or violent content suitable only for persons aged 18 or older. Generally speaking, the A-O rating is reserved for pornographic games, not violent ones: most retailers refuse to carry AO games, and publishers are wary to release a video game with a built-in limit to the purchasing audience. Conversely, many games rated "Teen" do not have any violent content at all: releases like Guitar Hero, The Sims, Forza, among others, are rated "Teen" while containing no significant violence.

The Entertainment Software Association has came out strongly against the proposed tax, saying that “taxing First Amendment protected speech based on its content is not only wrong, but will end up costing Missouri taxpayers” — possibly a veiled suggestion that it will attempt to fight any encroachment on game profits with a lawsuit.

Other plans to tax violent video games have failed. In Oklahoma in 2012, Republican state Rep. William Fourkiller proposed a similar tax to fight childhood obesity and bullying but was unable to bring the bill out of committee, while a 2008 effort in New Mexico failed.

While no clear scientific evidence exists to link violent video games with mass shootings, a 1% sales tax would amount to approximately 60 cents for a brand-new AAA release: hardly something that will put a real damper on (admittedly falling) $13.26 billion in video game sales in 2012.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Here's why everyone is freaking out about 'Star Fox 2' on the SNES Classic

If you're not sure why the release of 'Star Fox 2' for the newly announced SNES Classic Ed is such a big deal, here's some context you may not be aware of.

There are some big changes for assassins in the 'League of Legends' PBE

This is a good update for assassins with crowd control abilities.

'Pokémon Go' Raid Map Locations: Locator site helps you finally snag that Machamp or Tyranitar

Get a bird's-eye view of the rarest catches in 'Pokémon Go' with these raid map location tools.

You can preorder 'Wolfenstein 2' for just $35 right now

You can reserve your right to kill Nazis in 'Wolfenstein 2' for a steep discount if you preorder the game right now.

'Pokémon Go' PokéCoins are awarded faster, but there's lower daily limit to contend with

Not so taken with the new system for gaining PokéCoins in 'Pokémon Go'? Niantic has increased the rate at which players get coins, but you'll reach your daily max earlier now too.

The SNES Classic is finally confirmed and we can't wait to get our hands on it

It's official. The SNES Classic is coming this year.

Here's why everyone is freaking out about 'Star Fox 2' on the SNES Classic

If you're not sure why the release of 'Star Fox 2' for the newly announced SNES Classic Ed is such a big deal, here's some context you may not be aware of.

There are some big changes for assassins in the 'League of Legends' PBE

This is a good update for assassins with crowd control abilities.

'Pokémon Go' Raid Map Locations: Locator site helps you finally snag that Machamp or Tyranitar

Get a bird's-eye view of the rarest catches in 'Pokémon Go' with these raid map location tools.

You can preorder 'Wolfenstein 2' for just $35 right now

You can reserve your right to kill Nazis in 'Wolfenstein 2' for a steep discount if you preorder the game right now.

'Pokémon Go' PokéCoins are awarded faster, but there's lower daily limit to contend with

Not so taken with the new system for gaining PokéCoins in 'Pokémon Go'? Niantic has increased the rate at which players get coins, but you'll reach your daily max earlier now too.

The SNES Classic is finally confirmed and we can't wait to get our hands on it

It's official. The SNES Classic is coming this year.