Video Games

Pennsylvania Lawmaker Calls for Thoroughly Unconstitutional Tax on 'Violent' Video Games

It's not about school safety-it's about the money.

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Nicolas Maeterlinck 0032475310634/BELGA/Newscom

Say that I told you that a state lawmaker wanted to tax a particular product that he found objectionable and then use that money to fund school-related projects. When asked about it by the press, he would openly acknowledge that part of the purpose of the tax was to serve as a new source of revenue for the state. Which political party would you assume this lawmaker belonged to?

If you assumed he's a Democrat, you are so very, very wrong. It's actually Republican Pennsylvania state Rep. Christopher Quinn who wants to add a 10 percent sales tax on a particular retail good, "violent video games." Quinn wants to apply a special tax on games with "adults only" ratings that may include "scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content, or gambling with real currency," according to the text of HB 109.

This money would be collected by the state and then set aside in a special fund—The Digital Protection for School Safety Account—which will be distributed to schools to enhance school safety.

To be blunt, Quinn is trying to make video games the villain of school shootings in order to justify a new tax. From NBC10 in Philadelphia:

Quinn told NBC10 this is not about censorship but rather about finding a new revenue stream. He did however note that "many have concluded that violent video games are a risk factor for potential violence."

"This bill does not prohibit violent video games, instead it simply provides a revenue stream—it tries to recoup some of the societal costs—to help make our schools safer by taxing an industry that has been shown to lead to violence," he said.

"Shown to lead to violence" is complete and utter crap. As video games have become more and more popular, violent crimes have been going down, not up.

Second, his memo announcing his plans references a single paragraph from a single article from the National Center for Health Research, and that article points to an American Psychological Association analysis that found that video games might increase aggression. But that same study clearly states they have not been able to find any link between violent video game play and "delinquency or criminal behavior."

A recently released study from researchers from the University of Oxford examined the behavior of 1,000 gaming teens and found no link at all between violent games and aggressive behavior.

Laying the blame on video games is just a useful crutch anyway. By bringing up "revenue," Quinn made it abundantly clear that his real goal is to find a way for the state to get its hands on more taxpayer dollars in order to bankroll pet projects. After all, video games are very popular—the industry raked in about $135 billion in 2018.

He may run into a significant barrier known as the First Amendment. He's attempting to levy a tax on a game on the basis of its content. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that video games are protected by the First Amendment and struck down a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors. The Entertainment Software Association (which represents game companies) warns that Quinn's tax would be unconstitutional.

That may be why Quinn's bill has already failed once, but just like a gamer struggling to hack and slash through Dark Souls, he doesn't appear to be giving up. More on the fake "consensus" that violent video games led to aggression in teens, by Reason's Ron Bailey, here.

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58 responses to “Pennsylvania Lawmaker Calls for Thoroughly Unconstitutional Tax on 'Violent' Video Games

  1. To me, it seems like violent video games can often serve as a healthy outlet for dealing with aggression or frustration. Something happens to you, you get mad, so you spend an hour pretending to be an Allied soldier shooting up Nazis. Or Nazi Zombies, whatever.

    We should promote MORE violent video games, let everyone indulge their own sick impulses in the privacy of their own home.

    1. We should promote MORE violent video games

      Especially in Mexico, am I right?

      IMMIGRATION!!!!!!!!!!

    2. Something happens to you, you get mad, so you spend an hour pretending to be an Allied soldier shooting up Nazis.

      Or making death threats in the world’s worst game: Twitter.

    3. Maybe indulging in sick fantasies is not a good thing. Maybe I don’t want to indulge in my own personal sick fantasies.

      There’s a world of difference between working out your frustrations on a video game, and indulging your inner depravities. If a game is the only thing keeping you from acting on them, then it’s high time you talked to a psychiatrist.

      1. Apple, meet orange.

    4. There are some studies pointing to this.

      I think it’s also due to the fact that bored teens aren’t going out in the street to raise hell because there are more fun things to do at home.

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  2. . As video games have become more and more popular, violent crimes have been going down, not up.

    Not on the border!

    IMMIGRATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Not surprised at all he’s a republican. We’ve had a republican controlled legislature for over a decade and they’ve passed tax and fee increases That would make AOC blush. Our Left leaning governor doesn’t need to request any monies, the legislature is always on the hunt to raise taxes and increase fees.

    1. There is no tax increase that would cause AOC to blush. Just saying. It’s like trying to shock an aged hooker with your secret fantasy. Ain’t nothing going to raise their eyebrows anymore

  4. nice to see the legacy of Tipper Gore lives on.

  5. Well at least he’s honest, unlike the soda tax that was supposed to help the children.

  6. “”When asked about it by the press, he would openly acknowledge that part of the purpose of the tax was to serve as a new source of revenue for the state. Which political party would you assume this lawmaker belonged to?”‘

    Either. This type of BS isn’t owned by just one party.

    1. Spot on!
      First, there’s the playing of the religious/moral card by a Republican, criticizing a game for potential actions of the game’s players… same as Democrats who hate guns because they’re dangerous… in the hands of dangerous humans.

      But don’t forget one of my Laws:

      Falk’s Thirty-Third Law:

      “The Only Criterion for putting a Tax on something is that the “something” must be Measurable.
      No other reason is necessary.”

  7. So you’d saying trying to pass this bill is like the Dark Souls of legislative battles?

    1. sounds like the estimable Mr Quinn needs to “git gud” at lawmaking

  8. Say that I told you that a state lawmaker wanted to tax a particular product that he found objectionable and then use that money to fund school-related projects. When asked about it by the press, he would openly acknowledge that part of the purpose of the tax was to serve as a new source of revenue for the state. Which political party would you assume this lawmaker belonged to?

    I would assume it was a Democrat, and most of the time, I’d be right.

    I guess I’m disappointed the Republican didn’t go for porn or nudity or something.

    1. Ordinarily I’d assume Democrat too, but since the headline said violent video games I assume Republican in this case

      1. Given that Democratic lawmakers go way…wwwwwwwwwway back in trying to regulate Violent Video games, the safe bet (without reading into the post) would always be democrat. Operative word: bet.

        1. The only real diff between Dems and Reps is that one party is honest on the ability to get a legal abortion.

  9. I don’t think there should be special taxes on video games.

    On the subject of “violence,” I really think the research on this subject is BS unless the researchers make distinctions among they types of violence portrayed. In the reissued Resident Evil, for example, it’s a clean-cut policeman saving the city from zombies and rescuing the innocent. Good guys vs. bad guys.

    And if you’re shooting nazis as an Allied soldier, again it’s good guys vs. bad guys.

    If researchers don’t bother to distinguish between video games with heroic violence against bad guys, versus game with nihilistic violence just for fun, then their research model is useless – garbage in, garbage out.

    1. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that playing Grand Theft Auto, beating up prostitutes and shooting cops, is no more encouraging of violence than something like “Spec Ops: The Line.” Mentally healthy individuals are able to make a distinction between fantasy violence and real violence.

      1. I don’t know the effects to a scientific certainty because to my knowledge the distinction I mentioned hasn’t been recognized by researchers, who simply figure that anything shooty is violent, and there’s no need to make any further differentiation.

        1. In any event, I doubt even GTA would turn people into violent sociopaths – it might coarsen their sensibilities, though. I don’t know how one measures such things.

    2. So if you’re playing a WWII game that allows you to opt for the German side, you should be charged half the tax?

      1. Like someone said, “I don’t think there should be special taxes on video games.”

  10. Perhaps we could shame this Republican out of his position by mercilessly comparing him to Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton.

  11. Quinn told NBC10 this is not about censorship but rather about finding a new revenue stream.

    Sheesh, Quinn — Then how about just waiving your salary?

  12. Absolutely against the idea in total, but if it really only applied to AO rated games, and not M, that would be a list of at most 20 games. And 19 of them would be porn titles.

    1. Just to give readers a sense of how much more stupid this idea is as a revenue generator.

      1. Apparently a whole 30 games have been given an AO rating by the ESRB. Only 4 of them in the last 10 years though (most recent in 2016)

        Additionally, of the 30, one was cancelled and never released, another had its rating reduced to M after being permanently patched to remove offending content, another was available only as a European import

  13. When it comes to stealing money, I’d say the two parties are running more or less neck-and-neck.

  14. “Shown to lead to violence” is complete and utter crap.

    See, this is why I like Scott – none of this “to be sure, some people argue….” Robbiesque dithering.

    1. To be sure!

  15. How exactly does one define a “violent video game”? People are comfortable at different points along a continuum.

    Minecraft is violent. It has swords and death. You don’t see any blood, but there is the killing of animals and people. Some parents would be comfortable in keeping the game set to peaceful for their young kids, or even putting an age limit on the game. In the middle yout might have a game like Fallout 4 which has lots of cartoon blood and dismemberment and other adult themes. At the further extreme you have gore soaked splatter fests with chainsaws. Even XP for simulated rape. That’s a few light years past my comfort level. But none of it comes close to actual real world violence. Games that attempted that would be shunned by the market.

    But it’s not for the government to regulate. It’s up to parents and the culture. There are lines I personally feel should not be crossed, but the line should be enforced by peaceful means not by calling in the cops.

    1. I assume it would be tied to ESRB ratings

  16. Americans aren’t taxed enough.
    They still have some change in their sofas and pockets.
    Uncle Sam can’t get enough.
    Just look at how much he spends every minute, so cough it up people.
    Uncle Sam needs his fix at your expense.

  17. There are only 29 games with the AO rating. If that was the standard go ahead, it will result in lost revenue. Of course what he means are games with a Mature rating. The lack of understanding by these individuals is how we got a comics code based on bullshit psych research that omitted data from the non incarcerated part of the population. It was proven false then, it will fail time and time again.

  18. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There is no justification for the commonwealth’s lawmakers to be full time.

    1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: There is no justification for the commonwealth’s lawmakers to be full time.

      FTFY

  19. I thought this meme would die after Jack Thompson got disbarred, but it seems his spirit lives on in the latest idiot to try and tax/punish “mature” video games (most of them are extremely immature and childish) by linking violent content to real world actions. While we’re at it, let’s blame death metal again too! It’s 1999 again!

  20. I’ve thought that at least a healthy portion of these mass shootings are an extension of the video game into reality. The only way to intensify the thrill, tension, and satisfaction these games have to offer is to go for an attempt at the same carnage in real life.

  21. “More on the fake “consensus” that violent video games led to aggression in teens, by Reason’s Ron Bailey, here.”

    Ron Bailey attacks the straw man that video games cause one to mistake or confuse the game world with reality.

    Here’s what seems to be the ‘psychological consensus:’

    “Studies have shown that playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in both the short-term and long-term.[2] Violent video games can also desensitize people to seeing aggressive behavior and decrease prosocial behaviors such as helping another person and feeling empathy (the ability to understand others). The longer that individuals are exposed to violent video games, the more likely they are to have aggressive behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. These effects have been seen in studies in both Eastern and Western countries. Although males spend more time than females playing violent video games, violent video game exposure can increase aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in both sexes.”

    Aren’t the naysayers, those who point out that the statistics don’t back the link between crime and video games falling victim to the fallacy of gaussian distribution as outlined in the Black Swan book? The tools that these social scientists use aren’t fit to identify loong tail phenomena.

    1. “Here’s what seems to be the ‘psychological consensus:'”
      Cite missing.

      1. Gee, where could it have got to?

        1. “Gee, where could it have got to?”

          Nowhere, asshole. Your claim is bullshit.

          1. I’ll have more bullshit claims for you later on. Keep reading and responding.

  22. This could be upheld in the future. The supreme court is different than it was in 2011. Two of the judges that voted for free speech for video games are gone. And I could see Gorsuch and/or Kavanaugh voting with Thomas for censorship.

  23. Perhaps we should tax only the people who voted for this guy? I’m really liking this idea…

  24. If you assumed he’s a Democrat, you are so very, very wrong.

    Only idiotic bots of the sort that infested the commentariat a couple years back would think this.

    “Vice” taxes have a long a robustly bipartisan history.

    1. I forgot to close out my italics. Oh well, no edit button, post ruined.

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  26. II haven’t bought software for years. Any schlub who buys software deserves to be taxed. Heavily, mercilessly and unconstitutionally.

  27. Censorship

    The following is an exceerpt from the novel, Retribution Fever:

    “No government ought to be without censors & where the press is free, no one ever will.” -Thomas Jefferson

    The Federalists clearly had intended to protect freedom of speech; freedom of political speech, that is. The extent to which they intended to protect commercial speech ? especially commercial speech that violated traditional Judeo-Christian norms of decency and propriety ? has provided fuel for endless debate depending upon individual points of view and assumptions.

    Prior to the Furies, the Supreme Court of these United States had expanded the concept of freedom of speech to include non-verbal behaviors such as nude girls dancing atop tables for money. More telling were the incessant attacks upon Western civilization by disestablishmentarians opposing traditional American ideals and values. Waving the banner of “sensitivity”, they strove to limit freedom of political speech; thereby, adding more fuel to the conflagration engulfing a declining nation already on fire ? literally and figuratively.

    “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” -Justice Robert H. Jackson (Terminiello v. Chicago, 1949)

    The fundamental question is, In a democratic republic based upon written constitutional law, can the government legitimately impose any sort of moral or ethical code? Can it legitimately define itself as a free society but one free with limits?

  28. Who SELLS AO games? Few retailers will touch them. And most platform holders don’t like them and don’t tend to sell them digitally.

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