Lawmaker calls for tax on violent games

Posted by Emma Woollacott

An Oklahoma lawmaker is proposing a special tax on violent video games, in what he says is an attempt to fight bullying and obesity in children.

Representative William Fourkiller (yes, wonderful, isn't it? And his son's called Toss!) wants a one percent tax on the games. The money would be put towards two new state funds for bullying prevention and outdoor education.

"Violent video games contribute to some of our societal problems like obesity and bullying, but because they raise a lot of revenue, they can also provide part of the solution," says Fourkiller.

"I hold no animosity toward the video game industry. Their products contribute to the diverse ‘market of ideas’ protected by our First Amendment that helps make America great. However, some of these products contribute to problems that can be mitigated in part by a minimal levy such as the one I propose."

All funds deposited into the Outdoor Education Fund would be spent, his bill says, "for the purpose of promoting outdoor education initiatives and nature-oriented physical programs for school-age children in accordance with childhood obesity efforts". The Bullying Prevention Fund, meanwhile, would be spent in support of efforts to prevent bullying in state schools.

"As legislators, we have a duty to Oklahoma children to do everything in our power to prevent bullying and obesity which inhibit the learning environment and threaten the health of our children," says Fourkiller noted.

"The legislation I propose imposes a minimal burden, which could reap benefits many times greater."

The bill looks likely to face some challenges. Quite apart from the issue of freedom of speech, there's the question of how exactly to define a violent game. Catapaulting birds at pigs isn't the act of a pacifist, after all.

An attempt to block sales of violent games to minors was defeated in California last year, and a similar tax failed to gain support in New Mexico in 2008.