There’s no such thing as successfully banning way to safety, whether we’re talking about banning guns or anything else, but the idea of waving a magic wand and solving all of our problems is irresistible, particularly to politicians who want to be seen as “doing something” to address a problem, whether or not it actually does any good.
Case in point; Illinois State Rep. Marcus Evans, who believes it’s time for a ban on the sale of the video game franchise Grand Theft Auto and other games that feature consequence-free violence.
“‘Grand Theft Auto’ and other violent video games are getting in the minds of our young people and perpetuating the normalcy of carjacking,” Evans said. “Carjacking is not normal and carjacking must stop.”
Evans also thanked on Monday community activist Early Walker for starting “Operation Safe Pump,” in which security teams patrol gas stations, to protect people while they’re pumping gas. It was recently extended to other nearby cities, as a retired police officer was targeted and carjacked last week.
Walker agreed with Evans’ conclusion about the game, in which players steal cars as part of a larger plot of organized crime.
“Representative Evans and I have researched and concluded that these very young offenders of carjacking are greatly influenced by the Grand Theft Auto video game,” Walker said. “I truly believe that there is bipartisan support to ban this game from being sold in Illinois.”
I believe that Rep. Marcus is going to run into some First Amendment issues with his legislation, but I doubt that his proposal gets very far to begin with.
I have no doubt that many of the juvenile offenders in Chicago may wile away their non-carjacking hours by playing Grand Theft Auto, but the fact remains that GTA V, the latest game in the franchise, has sold more than 140-million copies since it was first released in 2013. Now, the game did sell 20-million copies last year, which was the most since its release, and its true that crime spiked last year as well, but there certainly weren’t 20-million carjackings in the United States last year.
Perhaps Grand Theft Auto is inspiring some young minds to set off on criminal pursuits, but the vast majority of people who play the game are never going to commit an armed robbery or any other violent crime, and banning the sale of the game will do nothing to stop the culture of criminality from spreading.
In order to do that, the biggest issue to address is the lack of consequences for juvenile offenders. Why are we seeing an explosion in juvenile crime in Chicago and other cities? Because even when offenders are caught and arrested, they’re generally put back out on the streets within a short period of time , perhaps with the promise of “intensive probation” to supposedly keep them in line.
Real consequences are needed, but so too are efforts to rehabilitate young offenders, and I don’t think Illinois is doing a great job of that. The juvenile recidivism rate in Illinois is appalling. In 2012, a report found that 91-percent of juvenile offenders in the state were re-arrested within three years. In 2019 that number had slightly declined to a still unbelievable 87-percent.
Rep. Evans is aiming in the wrong direction by trying to ban the sale of Grand Theft Auto as a way to reduce juvenile crime. He should instead begin tackling the much more difficult, yet productive task of reforming the state’s juvenile justice system and its woefully inadequate efforts to rehabilitate juvenile offenders. That is, if he wants to do something that works, instead of just doing something to get headlines.
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