My home city of Chicago continues to reel from soaring crime rates. Among the categories of increasing crime is a 135% spike in carjackings. One would think that the legislators would be focused on better policing and other programs. Rep. Marcus Evans Jr. (D, Chicago) however wants to ban video games like “Grand Theft Auto” which depict “motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present.” While it would not likely make a dent in carjackings, it would curtail free speech and individual choice.
Owning a car in Chicago has become increasingly difficult. I have one close relative in Chicago who sold his car because it became simply too expensive to continually replace tires and other items regularly stolen in broad daylight. Cars are stripped on city streets by gangs that drive around harvesting sellable items or just stealing entire cars. The solution for many is to simply not have a car.
The idea of limiting what people watch or listen to is hardly new. For years, leaders have sought 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 are enjoying and modify your desires and actions. It is the ultimate expression of paternalistic governance theory. It is not just limit to criminal impulses but extends to dietary impulses like the Big Gulp laws. There are real issues of individual choice that are dismissed in such measures. When it comes to banning video games, however, there are also free speech issues in the curtailment of forms of artistic and social expression.
Carjacking is increasing because there is insufficient deterrent. It is treated as an exciting exercise or thrill by young people. Eliminating GTA will have about as much impact on carjacking as eliminating Call of Duty will reduce world wars or banning Minecraft will decrease structure-destroying “mobs.”
What such bills accomplish is not crime reduction but political protection. It gives the appearance of action from legislators who do not want to take more decisive or direct action. It is easier to blame a video game than state or city enforcement policies.