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October 25, 2018

Legislation proposed by Delco state representative would tax mature video games in Pennsylvania

Christopher Quinn's H.B. 2705 aims to help fund school safety measures

Government Video Games
Video games Sean Do/Unsplash

A person playing video games.

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 TuesdayThe 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.’”

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