Rated 'T' For Tyrant

Editorial written by James Baughn on Thursday, August 4, 2005

from the warning-may-cause-blood-to-boil dept.

State Rep. Jeff Harris (D-Columbia) is on a crusade. He wants to ban the sale of violent video games to minors. Under the "Rated P for Parents" legislation that he sponsored in the Missouri House during the last session, storeowners could be thrown in jail for selling violent games to underaged customers.

The legislation didn't go anywhere, which is just as well because similar bans in St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Washington state have all been thrown out by Federal courts as a violation of the First Amendment.

In short, Rep. Harris is actively campaigning for an unconstitutional law, even though he swore an oath upon taking office that he would "support the Constitution of the United States and of the state of Missouri".

This is the oath that all members of the Missouri legislature must take. The penalty, according to the Missouri Constitution, is quite clear: "[A]ny member convicted of having violated his oath or affirmation shall be deemed guilty of perjury, and be forever disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit in this state."

Sadly, this remedy for out-of-control lawmakers has rarely, if ever, been applied. But it should be. The pro-censorship viewpoint of Rep. Harris certainly conflicts with the document that he swore an oath to "support."

The courts have upheld, in more than one instance, that violence within a video game is not sufficient cause to restrict the free speech rights of the game's creators. This precedent is not likely to change overnight despite the persistent anti-freedom drumbeat of our elected leaders.

Admittedly, many of today's popular video games have little redeeming value. The winning strategy typically consists of "shoot-first-ask-questions-later." However, the same could be said of many legislators, who employ an approach to lawmaking that amounts to little more than "shoot-Constitution-first-ask-questions-later."

As the old saying goes, the "best defense is a good offense." Likewise, the best way to defend the Bill of Rights is to go after runaway lawmakers that violate their oath to support it.