October 25, 2018
A recently-proposed piece of legislation in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives would add a 10 percent sales tax to video games containing violent material.
The bill, which can be read in full here, would place money generated from the tax into a new “Digital Protection for School Safety Account,” which Pennsylvania would then use to provide funding for school safety enhancements.
Rep. Christopher B. Quinn, R-168th, whose district covers parts of Delaware County, first mentioned the proposed legislation in a memo on Sept. 25, as noted by TechRaptor on Tuesday. The bill has since been referred to the Committee on Finance.
In the memo, Quinn drew connections between a seeming uptick in school violence, including the Parkland, Florida, shooting, and violent video games, citing a National Center for Health Research study.
The study Quinn referred to finds “playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in both the short-term and long-term.”
Of course, research around the effects of violent video games on those who play them is a notoriously mixed bag. In a 2013 New York Times story, a professor from the University of Texas, Arlington, questioned if a psychological study could ever definitively determine whether video game habits increase the likelihood of committing violent crimes.
The Media Coalition, a nonprofit which aims to defend First Amendment rights, sent a memo of opposition to Quinn in late September arguing the proposed sales tax would be unconstitutional.
The Media Coalition memo cited a number of prior court cases that would seem to stand in the way of Quinn’s legislation, including a 2002 case in which the Supreme Court held, “the Government may not prohibit speech because it increases the chance an unlawful act will be committed ‘at some indefinite future time.’”