Oklahoma lawmaker Will Fourkiller wants to tax violent video games to pay for childhood anti-obesity and anti-bullying programs. Sort of.
Oklahoma legislator Will Fourkiller has become the latest politician to go up against violent video games. He’s making news for proposing a tax on violent video games. His bill, if passed, actually would collect a 1-percent sales tax on all games rated “T” or above — that is, all games aimed at kids 13 and older — whether they’re violent or not. The tax would only apply in the state of Oklahoma.
Proceeds from the tax would go toward two Oklahoma funds that pay for childhood outdoor education and bullying prevention — worthy programs, certainly. Unfortunately, that’s because he believes the research connecting video games with obesity and with bullying. First, studies have not really singled out violent video games (PDF) as a cause of obesity — they tend to focus on all media. And there’s no compelling research suggesting violent video games cause bullying; in fact, studies so far have found no such correlation.
And then there’s this:
There’s even a game called Bully, Fourkiller pointed out, a situation he reportedly found unbelievable.
Does Fourkiller realize that the game’s name is a nickname for the fictional Bullworth Academy, where the game is set? In fact, the game’s goal is to defeat the school bully. (For what it’s worth, it’s rated “T.”)
Oddly, Fourkiller also referred to a case in which Ohio’s Dustin Lynch “shot a police officer and stole his car. He had been playing Grand Theft Auto.” Apparently Fourkiller didn’t get the memo that this case had been laughed out of court and an attorney involved in the case, Jack Thompson, was disbarred — in part for that involvement.
For more on why Fourkiller’s bill is ill-conceived, Time offers: Oklahoma Bill to Tax Violent Video Games Is Clueless and Inconsistent. Writer Matt Peckham explains:
Worse, in a sense, is that the Oklahoma bill singles out video games and ignores other forms of entertainment, from television to movies and books to music. The evidence any of those mediums elicit meaningfully negative behavior in consumers is equally dubious, uniting them with video games as victims of “moral panic” by people either too uninformed or ideologically blinded to absorb or accept the prevailing science.
For whatever reason, Fourkiller requested that his bill be considered under “emergency rules” because it is “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety,” according to the text. (It’s unclear how this is any more of an emergency now than it was during any other point during Fourkiller’s legislative career — except that he’s up for re-election this year).
Again, I think the ideals and programs Fourkiller wants to support are mostly good ones. He wants to keep kids out of trouble, get them exercise, and keep them from hurting each other. But this tax, and its wonky application, makes no sense. If you were going to raise money for such programs, how would you go about it?