WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court appeared divided Tuesday over California's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors.
During argument, conservatives clashed with conservatives and liberals allied with conservatives on whether the ban violates the First Amendment, Tribune Newspapers reported.
The ban has been blocked for now by the lower federal courts. If allowed to be implemented, the law would levy a $1,000 fine each time a violent video game is sold to someone less than 18 years of age in California.
The law defines as violent those games "in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." The violence must be "patently offensive," appeal to the "deviant or morbid interests" of minors and lack "serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value," The New York Times reported.
From the bench Tuesday, Tribune Newspapers reported, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer asked, "Why isn't it common sense" that if the law can forbid selling pictures of a "naked woman" to a young teen it can also forbid the sale of scenes "of gratuitous torture of children" in a video game?
Conservative Chief Justice John G. Roberts agreed, pointing to scenes from the game "Postal 2" in which girls are smashed in the face with a shovel and their bodies set on fire, the Tribune report said.
But conservative Justice Antonin Scalia -- much to the scorn of fellow conservative Justice Samuel Alito -- argued from the bench that the First Amendment has never been used to restrict violence in the media, the report said.
Scalia was joined by liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor in raising free-speech objections, the Tribune report said. "Could you get rid of rap music" since rap lyrics talk about "killing people?" Sotomayor asked.
The Supreme Court should hand down a decision sometime in the next few months, depending on how long it takes to reach a majority.