A rise in Chicago carjackings has led to one US representative applying for a bill that would ban GTA V in America.

10:25, 24 Feb 2021

Are we suddenly back in the mid-'00s or something? While Rockstar's long-running Grand Theft Auto series is no stranger to controversy, a new lawsuit in America aims to get the automotive adventure game banned. With GTA V still going strong eight years after it first launched, critics want the record-breaking title to be banned due to allegations it's led to a rise in carjackings.

While running prostitutes down in your motor is all-too-common in modern games, it was GTA that first gave us the chance to do so when it broke onto the scene in 1997. As each new entry has come out to critical acclaim, there have been concerns about the R-rated nature of its content and whether it could influence the real-world. These claims have been dismissed time and time again, but with the latest case, the plaintiffs have no plans to back down.


Who wants a GTA ban?

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois State Rep. Marcus Evans Jr. is pushing a bill that would prevent the sale of "violent" video games like GTA V. Evans Jr. is trying to amend a 2012 law to ban games that show “psychological harm” and “motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present". It was reportedly prompted by a rise in carjackings in Chicago, with Evans Jr. saying: “The bill would prohibit the sale of some of these games that promote the activities that we’re suffering from in our communities". 

If passed, House Bill 3531 would also amend the definition of what a violent video game is, meaning anything where you can "control a character within the video games that is encouraged to perpetuate human-on-human violence, in which the player kills or otherwise causes serious physical or psychological harm to another human or an animal" would be classed as "violent". The site reports that there have been 218 incidents of carjackings reported in January alone. 


Evans Jr. had been contacted by Early Walker, who started Operation Safe Pump in an attempt to stop carjackings at gas stations and other public places. Walker is championing the bill and said, "I feel like this game has become a huge issue in this spectrum. When you compare the two, you see harsh similarities as it relates to these carjackings". 


Will there be a GTA ban?

There are proposals for a $1,000 fine for anyone caught selling games deemed as violent, but it remains to be seen whether the bill will be passed. The issue of violence in GTA and games in general has reared its head plenty of times before. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that California legislators couldn't ban the sale of games to minors. At the time, The Verge reported that Supreme Court Justice Scalia ruled them as freedom of speech.


Scalia wrote, "Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection". As recently as 2020, the American Psychological Association said there was "little scientific" to link violence in video games and real-life violence.

Rockstar has been embroiled in violence before. In 2004, the game Manhunt was linked to the murder of 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah by 17-year-old friend Warren Leblanc in the United Kingdom. There were also claims that some developers were uncomfortable with the level of violence in the survival horror. Manhunt ended up being banned in both Australia and New Zealand, with it becoming a point of contention for many.


Whether Evans Jr.'s bill will come to pass remains to be seen, but if it does, it could mark a landmark moment for the GTA series and cast some serious doubt about how Rockstar will move forward in future games. 


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