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House committee votes to hold video game bill

Published: Saturday, Jan. 27 2007 12:18 a.m. MST

After hearing testimony for and against Rep. Scott Wyatt's video game bill, the House Public Utilities and Technology Committee voted to hold HB50 on Friday.

Rep. Kay McIff, R-Richfield, said it was important that Utah send a message to the nation that protecting children from violent video games was important but that drafting a resolution could accomplish that goal.

The bill, which would make providing violent video games to minors a third-degree felony, mirrors legislation that has come under legal fire in other states.

Wyatt, R-Logan, admitted that passing the law would likely mean a legal battle for the state. "This is risky," he said. But he wanted the state to send a message.

He said Utah should be in the middle of the legal fight to keep children away from violent games.

McIff offered to work with Wyatt on crafting a resolution that would encourage Attorney General Mark Shurtleff to lend support for other states who are involved in court cases involving laws that restrict video game sales.

The committee voted 7-2 to hold the bill. The committee chairman, Rep. Michael Noel, R-Kanab, and vice chairman, Rep. Aaron Tilton, R-Springville, voted against holding the bill.

Tilton said the bill deserved to be sent to the House for consideration.

Opponents of HB50 testified that parental responsibility and education were the best strategies for keeping kids away from the violent games.

Scott Sabey, a lobbyist with Entertainment Software Association, said the Legislature should look for more productive ways to keep kids from violent video games. "I don't think you intend to insert yourselves that far into our lives or homes."

The Utah PTA and the Eagle Forum testified for the bill. So did Judy Twede, who identified herself as a private citizen.

Twede said that the military uses video games that simulate shooting to train soldiers.

Maryann Christensen of the Utah Eagle Forum handed the committee a map that detailed incidents of school violence. She told the committee that 28 instances of school violence over the past decade were connected to kids playing violent video games.

"These are our little boys," she said of the offenders.

Rep. Steven Mascaro, R-West Jordan, wanted the committee to consider alternatives amending the law. "I'm not conflicted that there's a problem," but he worried that the law might have some negative consequences. "You've got to be careful about killing flies with sledgehammers."

Rep. Janice Fisher, D-West Valley, said it was an important first step for the Legislature to consider video game violence and children. "No one pays attention until there's a threat it's going to be a law."

The committee is hoping to revisit the issue Tuesday.


E-mail: smansell@desnews.com

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