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Rockefeller Offers Media Violence Study as Amendment to Gun Control Legislation

With the Senate poised to vote on new gun control measures, perhaps on Wednesday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va., pictured above) has offered an amendment that calls for a comprehensive study of violent video games and video images on children.

Rockefeller’s amendment mirrors legislation he introduced in January, which called for the National Academy of Sciences to investigate the impact of mayhem in the media. It also calls for the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission to review such a study, along with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, has long been a critic of excessive violence in the media, although a 2011 Supreme Court decision limited the government’s ability to put restrictions on the sale of excessively violent games.

It is still unclear if there are enough votes in the Senate to pass a compromise authored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) to expand background checks. That legislation also includes a provision to establish a 12-member National Commission on Mass Violence that would include a study of the media’s impact on violence.

After the Newtown shootings, Vice President Joseph Biden met with representatives of the movie and TV business, as well as the video game industry, raising speculation that Hollywood’s portrayals of gun violence could come under scrutiny on Capitol Hill. But when President Obama unveiled a plan to address gun violence, the only provision that had to do with Hollywood was a plan calling for a study by the Centers for Disease Control.

Instead, industry groups, including the National Assn. of Broadcasters, the MPAA and the Entertainment Software Assn. have launched public service campaigns focusing on their voluntary ratings guidelines, initiatives that appears to have helped diffuse attention on the industry. On Tuesday, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd unveiled a new campaign called “Check the Box,” designed to direct parents to ratings information. The MPAA also has redesigned its ratings “boxes” that appear in ads and in previews, with a streamlined design.

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