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Consumer group fights new games legislation

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Gaming advocacy group the Entertainment Consumers Association has called on its members to contact Congress in an effort to resist S. 134, also known as the Violent Content Research Act.

In a letter to its members, the ECA says that the research is unnecessary and represents a "distraction from finding the real causes" of acts of mass brutality by armed individuals, like the Newtown shootings, which have prompted the proposed legislation.

The legislation, which calls for research to be conducted by the National Academy of Sciences on whether games have a harmful effect on children, was authored by Senator Jay Rockefeller, a longtime critic of violent video games.

"The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has recently recommended S. 134 be sent to the floor of the Senate to be voted on," states the ECA's letter. "This legislation would instruct the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the connection between the 'exposure to violent video games and video programming and harmful effects on children.' This comes in the wake of numerous mass shootings across the United States. The ECA has numerous concerns about this and feels that this is a distraction to finding the real cause of these events."

Back in December, Rockefeller introduced the legislation, stating that, "we need to take a comprehensive look at all the ways we can keep our kids safe. I have long expressed concern about the impact of the violent content our kids see and interact with every day." An original bill died when the 112th Congress session ended on Jan. 2, but was reintroduced earlier this year.

Following Government consultations with video game execs earlier this year, President Obama separately called for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct further research into the relationship between video games, media images and violence. It was among 23 gun violence reduction executive actions laid out during a nationally televised address spurred by the Newtown shooting.

The ECA, whose members are made up of games consumers, argues that plenty of research has already been done, finding no link between video games playing and acts of violence. It also points towards the Supreme Court's 2011 ruling that games fall under First Amendment free speech rights.

"With all due respect Senator, the highest court of the land has reviewed the scientific research and concluded that video games do not cause violence," states the letter. "The non-scientific personal opinion of the Senator should not get to overturn the Supreme Court ruling." The ECA provides an auto-link to contact members of Congress with its arguments.

The Entertainment Software Association, which represents video game companies, issued a statement on the proposed legislation last month. "ESA has always supported objective scientific research and appreciates the opportunity for an ongoing dialogue with Chairman Rockefeller and members of the Committee. Video games are enjoyed by the majority of American families - parents and children alike.

"Our industry has forged a longstanding partnership with parents by providing them the best information and tools available in order to make informed decisions about what games their children play. Indeed, the Federal Trade Commission this year again recognized the ESRB rating system as the best in the entertainment sector. We are building on this leadership with a renewed ratings and parental control awareness and usage campaign, and by continuing to expand the ESRB system to apps and mobile platforms."