Lawmaker Proposes “sin tax” on Violent Video Games

Lawmakers have always been critical of video game culture. Now a Pennsylvania official is looking to implement a “sin tax” on certain video games.

As reported by GameSpot, a bill has been proposed by Pennsylvania lawmakers to provide a 10% excise tax on certain games. Known as House Bill 109, the bill hopes to provide a “sin tax” on games rated M or Adults-Only by the ESRB. The taxed money would then be funneled into a “Digital Protection for School Safety Account.” The account is intended to enhance security measures at schools, following recent shootings.

Republican state representative Chris Quinn proposed the bill back in 2018. However, the bill did not make it out of the committee during the 2018 legislation. Consequently, a similarly worded bill has since been proposed.

Back in Sept., Quinn offered the following statement on the matter.

“In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation to provide additional funding for schools to implement safety measures to protect students and teachers across the Commonwealth.

“Over the past few years, acts of violence in schools seem to be occurring more frequently and with more intensity. From Colorado to Connecticut to most recently in Parkland, Florida, students have experienced unthinkable actions by peers in a place that should promote learning and enrichment, safety and protection.

“One factor that may be contributing to the rise in, and intensity of, school violence is the material kids see, and act out, in video games. The National Center for Health Research recently posted an article finding “studies have shown that playing violent video games can increase aggressive thoughts, behaviors, and feelings in both the short-term and long-term. 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.

“While at the state level we have undertaken numerous actions to combat this, including Act 44 of 2018, I believe there is still more we can do. As such, I plan to introduce legislation which would assess a 10% sales tax on video games that contains violent material. The generated revenue from this tax assessment will placed into a restricted fund for the sole purpose of providing funding opportunity for school safety enhancements, a proposal similar to one the State of Rhode Island is considering.

“Schools should be a place in which students should be safe. I respectfully ask you to join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation and help provide the vital funding needed for our schools to ensure the safety and well-being of our students.”

Within the statement, Quinn references the National Center for Health Research. Noting that studies by the organization have demonstrated links between violent video games and aggressive behavior, Quinn attempted to bolster her argument. However, the state representative failed to reference the same study’s disclaimer.

The study’s disclaimer explains that other factors may be relevant to the provided findings. Things such as mental illness, adverse environments and access to firearms may also play a role.

The Entertainment Software Association recently offered a statement to Variety opposing the bill.

“Numerous authorities–including scientists, medical professionals, government agencies, and the US Supreme Court–found that video games do not cause violence. We encourage Pennsylvania legislators to work with us to raise awareness about parental controls and the ESRB video game rating system, which are effective tools to ensure parents maintain control over the video games played in their home.”

Hunter Boyce is a writer, which probably seems pretty obvious with "author" prominently displayed. He mostly writes about video games. However, he was previously a mixed martial arts news writer. When not writing about people pelting each other in the face or about leveling up in the latest RPG, he tends to spend his time as a web producer in Atlanta. You can shout all of your MMA and video game related quandaries at him at @SomthinClever on Twitter. Feel free to make your demands to him in ALL CAPS. He loves that.

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