The Blame-the-Games Game

To the Editor:

Re your Rep. DebraLee Hovey interview last week [“Searching For Legal And Cultural Responses to Violence,” 5/23/14, The Newtown Bee] : I applaud Rep. Hovey for voting for SB 1160 on April 4, 2013—all the more so because she voted the will of her district rather than her own conviction as a legislator endorsed by the NRA Victory Fund, with 83 percent ratings from both the NRA and CCS , and as state co-chair of ALEC, the corporate-funded organization that writes model “stand your ground” bills for state legislatures. Perhaps her vote also reflected contrition for her March 2011 commitment to oppose  SB 1094, which would have banned the 30-round magazines employed on December 14, 2012.

On January 23, 2013, a week after the creation of the bipartisan gun violence task force whose recommendations were codified in SB 1160, Rep. Hovey introduced HB 5735, which would have imposed a 10 percent sin tax on M-rated video games to fund state-generated educational materials on the danger of such games.

An Assistant Minority Leader in the House with a decade of legislative experience, Rep. Hovey surely understood why her bill was a nonstarter. First, under the July 2011 ruling of the US Supreme Court in Brown v EMA, HB 5735 would violate the First Amendment by restricting free speech and by disproportionately taxing certain forms of speech. Second, it would levy a punitive excise based on studies cherry-picked to have found weak correlation, while discounting studies finding no statistically significant correlation. Rep. Hovey regards as dispositive of causation the research of Craig Anderson’s Iowa State University group, which the majority opinion in Brown v EMA dismissed as having “been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively … and suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.” Third, voters appreciate the ease with which sin tax revenues earmarked for education are diverted to general funds. Fourth, Rep. Hovey had signed the ATR pledge to oppose all efforts to increase taxes. Fifth, SB 328 was introduced on the same day to create a violent video task force charged to evaluate the correlation postulated by HB 5735.

The inference is that Rep. Hovey was grandstanding, knowing that her bill would die in committee, as it did two weeks later. Diversionary grandstanding was in the air. In his press conference a month before, one week after the massacre, Wayne LaPierre asserted that guns don’t kill people; imaginary guns kill people. The state co-chair of ALEC evidently felt moved to take up the NRA battle cry, just as she had a couple of weeks earlier when she tweeted, “Gabby Gifford [sic] stay out of my towns!!”

Given that Rep. Hovey acknowledges that she won’t reintroduce HB 5735 in her remaining seven months in office before retiring, why is she reviving publicity for it now, 16 months after it died? One reader of Rep. Hovey’s flurry of local op-eds and interviews is probably Patricia Clark, chair of the NRA Nominating Committee, who lives in Newtown.

Robert Hutchinson

8 Split Rock Road, Newtown                    May 26, 2014

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