Rhode Island state representative Robert Nardolillo has proposed legislation in the Ocean State that seeks to add an extra tax on violent video games. In a news release this week, the Republican lawmaker said the funds from this tax would go towards mental health and counselling resources. This legislation would put an additional 10 percent sales tax on video games sold in Rhode Island that carry an M-for-Mature or higher rating from the ESRB.
Rhode Island’s sales tax rate is 7 percent, meaning $60 games actually cost $64.20. With the extra 10 percent, an M-rated game like Grand Theft Auto V would cost $70.20. That’s a good amount extra. Nardolillo says the revenue from this tax would be put into a “special account” to be dispersed to school districts for the purposes of funding counselling, mental health programs, and “other conflict resolution activities.”
“Our goal is to make every school in Rhode Island a safe and calm place for students to learn,” Nardolillo said in a news release. “By offering children resources to manage their aggression today, we can ensure a more peaceful tomorrow.”
Nardolillo’s proposed legislation comes just days after the horrific high school shooting in Parkland, Florida. In the wake of the tragedy, President Trump said he’s heard people say “the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
Nardolillo went on to say, without citing any specific study or data, that “there is evidence that children exposed to violent video games at a young age tend to act more aggressively than those who are not.” He added: “This bill would give schools the additional resources needed to help students deal with that aggression in a positive way.”
Some argue there is assuredly a link between playing violent video games and increased levels of aggressive behaviour, while others maintain that games themselves don’t cause violence, but are rather one prominent risk factor for violent real-world behaviour.
This is not the first time a politician has called for an excise tax on specific video games. After the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, a lawmaker from the state proposed a similar tax in 2013. Also that year, a state representative from Missouri proposed a sales tax on games rated M and above. In both cases, the funds would have gone towards mental health programs. However, the bills never became law.