Brett Molina, USA TODAY
A House bill introduced earlier this week seeks to apply stiffer penalties to retailers who sell or rent adult-rated video games to minors.
The Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act submitted by House Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) would require ratings labels on all video games and ban the sale of video games rated Mature or Adults Only to minors.
Any violators would face a $5,000 fine.
According to the ESRB, the video game ratings system is voluntarily, but nearly all video games sold in stores carry an ESRB rating. "Many U.S. retailers, including most major chains, have policies to only stock or sell games that carry an ESRB rating, and console manufacturers require games that are published on their systems in the U.S. and Canada to be rated by ESRB," reads a FAQ on the ESRB website.
And the video game industry seems most aggressive in enforcing its ratings. According to a 2011 survey by the Federal Trade Commission, the video game business was best at enforcing ratings on entertainment purchases.
The FTC survey found only 13% of minors were allowed to buy a game rated M for Mature or higher at a retailer. By comparison, 38% of minors were able to purchase a R-rated DVD, 33% could buy a ticket to a R-rated movie and 64% bought a CD with a "Parental Advisory Label."
The ratings bill is one of several pieces of legislation considered as the debate over violent video games following the shooting in Newtown, Conn. presses forward. A state bill introduced in Missouri urges a sales tax on all video games rated Teen or higher by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), while other federal lawmakers such as Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) are pushing legislation to explore the affects of violent video games.
On Wednesday, President Obama urged Congress to fund research exploring the impact violent video games have on children. "We don't benefit from ignorance," said Obama in a speech unveiling a broader gun control plan. We don't benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence."