Lead Plaintiff in Heller v. District of Columbia Says Game Regulation Efforts a 'Back Door' to Regulating Guns

October 15, 2013 - GamePolitics Staff

The plaintiff in the landmark gun rights Supreme Court decision that bears his name (Heller v. District of Columbia) warned that the effort to regulate violent video games in the U.S. Congress is "a backdoor attack on gun rights." The Supreme Court case, Heller v. District of Columbia, overturned D.C.'s handgun ban. In a report on conservative publication Human Events, Heller said that lawmakers are targeting video games as a way to get at the issue from behind. He also says that it would be like banning old movies featuring scenes with gangsters in gun fights shooting up the streets of a city - something his generation grew up watching and enjoying.

"It seems to me that going after shooter video games is a surrogate for going after real guns and real owners,” said. Richard A. Heller. "For too long the media and the gun grabbers have sold the idea that guns are cause of violence. They keep failing in their attempts to outlaw guns and undermine the right to keep and bear arms, so they are going around it."

Admittedly the article is pro-gun rights and Heller isn't afraid to point the finger at "liberal" lawmakers (and the media) who want to ban guns as being at the forefront of the issue of video game violence censorship efforts. Certainly Sen. Jay Rockefeller has done his fair share of taking aim at the video game industry over the years. But the Human Events article also points the finger at Republican lawmakers, who are under pressure to do something, buoyed by the NRA's narrative after Sandy Hook that it is a "culture of violence" that is causing these mass shootings, and not legal gun ownership.

But Heller also believes that opponents of gun ownership are targeting video games for another reason; it exposes people to the idea of gun ownership by giving them virtual access to guns:

"Many kids, who are never exposed to competitive shooting or hunting, become interested in guns after playing video games," he said. "It is kind of the same as when I was a kid and I saw a gunfight in a movie. Just because a boy saw Jimmy Cagney or John Wayne shoot up the place didn’t mean that me or my friends would become gangsters or gunslingers—but, it did get us interested in what for me has been a lifetime passion for shooting and collecting."

Ultimately Heller believes that the system already in place (the ESRB) to rate games works and no further restrictions from the government are needed.

"The First Amendment says they can make all the games they want, but it is up to parents to decide what they want their children to see,” he said. "Adults should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves, not the government. We should not allow the government to make attempts to reduce the quality of our life to the lowest common denominator because somebody can’t behave themselves with a game or toy."

U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation helped Heller with his Supreme Court case. Founder and president of that group, Dane von Breichenruchardt, said that any attempt to outlaw or restrict video games would run afoul of the First Amendment, as the Supreme Court noted in its ruling on Brown v. EMA.

"I am sure there are many people, who believe that if they get rid of the video games, the violence will be reduced, I disagree," Breichenruchardt told Human Events, adding that there are already "routine restrictions on video games for offensive language or pornographic images, just as there are on other forms of speech."

Recently reader Ben Hayward penned an editorial touching on many of the same things said by Heller, but without all the name-calling and calling out of specific groups. It's definitely worth a read if you haven't already check it out. You can check out his "letter to the Editor" here.

Source: Human Events


Re: Lead Plaintiff in Heller v. District of Columbia Says ...

"We should not allow the government to make attempts to reduce the quality of our life to the lowest common denominator because somebody can’t behave themselves with a game or toy."

Billy Dee speaks louder than words

Re: Lead Plaintiff in Heller v. District of Columbia Says ...

I never considered this, but I can believe it. I've always said that people like Leland Yee or that guy on Katie Couric's video game show really need to stop dressing their distaste for video game violence up in pseudoscience and flawed tests and just admit they're trying to ban something they don't like or understand. At least I'd appreciate the honesty.

Of course, that's not going to get very far in a legislative session or court hearing.

Re: Lead Plaintiff in Heller v. District of Columbia Says ...

Not really a 'back door' at this point given it has already been opened pretty wide by court cases involving pornography.   We made some progress in striking down blasphemy, corruption, and drug laws, but there is a lot still on the books that can be drawn upon to regulate or outlaw things.

Re: Lead Plaintiff in Heller v. District of Columbia Says ...

Agreed, my personally feeling is obscenity laws, whether for minors or adults have no basis in the constitution and should be struck down as the unconstitutional laws they are. Banning speech based on offensiveness, disgust or what we may consider inappropriate for certain people is not in the realm of the nanny-state government to enforce, but the individual's themselves or in the case of children, solely their parents to enforce.

Now in the case of real actual harmful activity being shown in films or pictures, such as real snuff films, real rape videos and real child porn. That is a different story. Such material could be banned because of the real life harmful and illegal activities, and the fact that the creation and distribution of such materials facilitates the further action of those activities.

"No law means no law" - Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment
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