- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

It rarely fails. Whenever politicians are faced with complex conundrums, they offer simple solutions.

Take, for example, D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty’s proposed legislation to limit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. Ostensibly, this is an attempt to limit the escalating instances of juvenile violence in the city, particularly car thefts.

After listening to hours of council testimony earlier this week on the unchecked juvenile crime that cost the lives of 24 youths in the District in 2004 alone, as the overall homicide rate declined, is this the best knee-jerk bill this city’s leaders can come up with?

They have got to do better. This city’s, as well as this nation’s, vulnerable children need to be treated with life-support systems, not Band-Aids.

If you take the joystick to the vexing video games out of their hands, you’ve got to replace it with something more substantive and productive, such as staffed and stocked recreation centers and libraries that offer fun-filled, supervised after-school activities.

On its face, Mr. Fenty’s Band-Aid bill appears noble and necessary. Of course, it would be advantageous to keep the lewd, loud and larcenous video games that are designed for adults out of the hands of children who are not yet 17. Of course, it would be wonderful, too, if we could lock up greedy merchants who sell this trash to children.

Perhaps the proposed loss of license or threat of a $10,000 fine would deter a few businesses, but probably not the illegitimate purveyors who are a more serious problem.

Nonetheless, it just isn’t that easy to thwart the lucrative sale of adult-rated material such as “Grand Theft Auto,” “Halo 2” and “Mortal Kombat” in the $7 billion video-game industry.

Pushing legislation to attack the problem is one thing. It’s much harder to get the appropriate government agencies to coordinate efforts that actually assist parents, clergy, educators, social-service providers and volunteers to make a decent difference in the lives of the District’s children who are at the highest risk of acting out for lack of basic living needs and moral guidance.

Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, is the only D.C. Council member not readily supporting Mr. Fenty’s video ban. Notwithstanding the First Amendment and American Civil Liberties Union censorship concerns, which could present legal challenges to the proposed measure, Mrs. Patterson agrees that it will take more than a ban to curb juvenile violence.

We already have all kinds of laws that prohibit the sale of all manner of mischief to children — liquor, cigarettes, lewd lyrics and mature videos. Still, they manage to get their hot hands on these items, mainly because they have older siblings or friends with irresponsible parents.

If I had my way, I wouldn’t have that misogynistic mess in my house, but that’s one adult’s personal preference. As a parent of minors, I would outright forbid it.

Parents have got to do better jobs of minding their own store. They cannot encourage disrespectful back talk or sanction bad behavior. Truth be told, children actually appreciate rules and discipline. It shows you care.

I recognize that even the best of parents can’t always keep a child from going astray given the outside media and peer pressures. Parents today have a lot of competition with their good guidance. The task of monitoring the Internet or cable channel surfing seems herculean, even with the help of technological blockers.

Mom’s and Dad’s worthy work is never done.

Yet even now, as the mother of adult children who learned that they are responsible for their actions, I have a pretty good idea what they read, what they watch, where they go, who their friends are and how they earned the money to buy the things I see them with. I still believe it’s my parental responsibility to point out when I think they might want to consider different choices, such as playing questionable video games.

I have seen these sick games and they are beyond blinking belief. You’ve got to wonder what sordid soul thought them up in the first place. I would like nothing more than to see the games, which glorify violence and reward battering, banned altogether.

In one game, the “playa” gets major “health” points for stopping his “ride” along the street corner and picking up a prostitute, with whom he has loud, backseat-rocking sexual relations. Those points are doubled if he manages to “pimp smack” her, “beat her down” and steal back the money he paid for her “services.”

However, every fun-loving, devil-may-care man for himself, which is the amoral pathos spread by these troubling types of self-centered, winner-take-all, no-matter-who-you’ve-got-to-kill-or-cheat entertainment. The more people, particularly police officers, you run over in a stolen car chase on your way to the finish line at breakneck speed, the better.

Reportedly, the National Law Journal cites a Tennessee lawsuit that blames the death of a man killed by teenagers to “Grand Theft Auto.”

It’s not just the promotion of violence that is at issue, it’s the lack of humanity and respect for your fellow man displayed in these vexing videos that we should find so bothersome, no matter what age the player.

Sorry. A simple feel-good solution, no matter how well-intentioned, is not enough to deal with such societal scourge.

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