My hometown of Chicago continues to suffer from rising crime rates. The categories of increasing crime include a 135% increase in carjackings. One would think lawmakers would focus on better policing and other programs. However, Rep. Marcus Evans Jr. (D, Chicago) wants to ban video games like “Grand Theft Auto,” which depict “car theft with a driver or passenger present.” While it would likely not affect carjackings, it would limit freedom of speech and individual choice.
Owning a car in Chicago has become increasingly difficult. I have a close relative in Chicago who sold his car because it just got too expensive to keep replacing tires and other items that were regularly stolen in broad daylight. Cars are stripped on the streets of the city by gangs who drive around to harvest salable items or simply steal entire cars. The solution for many is simply not to have a car.
The idea of limiting what people see or hear is hardly new. For years, executives have tried to limit video games and rap music as causes of crime or the erosion of family values. The idea is that the government can regulate what you enjoy and change your desires and actions. It is the ultimate expression of paternalistic governance theory. It is not limited to just criminal impulses but also extends to nutritional impulses like the Big Gulp laws. There are real questions of individual choice that are rejected in such measures. However, when it comes to banning video games, there are also issues with freedom of speech in restricting forms of artistic and social expression.
Carjacking is increasing because the deterrent is insufficient. It is treated as an exhilarating exercise or thrill by young people. The elimination of GTA will have about as much impact on carjacking as the elimination of Call of Duty will reduce world wars or the ban on Minecraft will reduce the structure-destroying “mobs”.
What such bills do is not to reduce crime, but to provide political protection. It gives the appearance of action from legislators who do not want to take more determined or direct action. It’s easier to blame a video game than it is to state or city enforcement guidelines.