Illinois politician wants to ban Grand Theft Auto after a rise in Chicago carjackings

A race in GTA Online

February 23, 2021 The ESA has issued a statement on the proposed Illinois legislation.

A rash of carjackings in Chicago over the past year has, of course, led some to point fingers at violent videogames. Now, an Illinois lawmaker wants to amend a state restriction on selling violent games to minors so that it would ban the sale of violent games to anyone – and would define depictions of motor vehicle theft as violence.

Following the original publication of this article, a representative of the Entertainment Software Association, the US game industry’s largest trade association, reached out with the following statement: “While our industry understands and shares the concerns about what has been happening in Chicago, there simply is no evidence of a link between interactive entertainment and real-world violence. We believe the solution to this complex problem resides in examining thoroughly the actual factors that drive such behaviors rather than erroneously ascribing blame to videogames based solely upon speculation.”

Illinois’s criminal code of 2012 restricts the sale of violent games to minors, with a fine of $1,000 USD as punishment. Democratic State Representative Marcus Evans Jr. has introduced HB3531, which would ban sales of violent games outright. The bill would also modify the definition of ‘violent’ to “include psychological harm and child abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, domestic violence, violence against women, or motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present inside the vehicle when the theft begins.”

There were 1,417 reported carjackings in Chicago in 2020, double the number that occurred a year before, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports. It’s been a big enough issue to prompt efforts like Operation Safe Pump, which has a private security firm posting guards at local gas stations as a deterrent.

“The bill would prohibit the sale of some of these games that promote the activities that we’re suffering from in our communities,” Evans tells the Sun-Times. He adds that games like Grand Theft Auto have “become a huge issue in this spectrum. When you compare the two, you see harsh similarities as it relates to these carjackings.”

The amendment would also repeal a section of the existing criminal code which requires retailers to display a two-inch ’18’ label on all violent games. (I have to assume that’s disappearing because it was never enforced.)

It’s 2021, and here I am, writing about efforts to ban violent videogames. If you’d told me a decade that we’d still be talking about politicians trying to blame bigger problems on videogames, well… I guess I’d have to believe you, because maybe nothing ever really changes.