Doctors' association unites against violent video games

The OMA votes to support legislation that would restrict children's access to the games in public places

The Oregonian
November 6, 2000
By Wendy Y. Lawton

Wading into the national debate about kids, culture and killing, 106 doctors from across Oregon voted Sunday to take a stand against violent video games.

Credit a 13-year-old crusader from Coos Bay

Danielle Shimotakahara -- who has addressed senators in Salem and Washington, D.C. on the issue -- was behind a resolution approved by the Oregon Medical Association's House of Delegates. It lends support to state and national efforts to restrict minor access to gory video games in public spots such as arcades, skating rinks, and pizza parlors.

That support could include backing new laws. State Sen. Veral Tarno, R-Coquille, has promised to sponsor a bill next year that would ban violent games from places where kids congregate. Similar bills were introduced this year in eight states, while similar laws have passed in cities like Indianapolis, Ind.

But Dr. Mary Kuhar, a health professor from Bend and one of the Oregon Medical Association delegates at the weekend meeting in Portland, said a physician committee had reservations about an outlawing such games outright.

Kuhar said it would be difficult to decide which ones should be considered violent and to define which places are public. Banning video games from businesses, she said, may also raise First Amendment issues.

Yet the medical association's support is broader than the request for legislation brought by Dr. Steven Shimotakahara, an OMA delegate and Danielle's dad.

Lobbying companies to get rid of shoot-em-up computer games and other graphic toys and pushing the movie industry to stop marketing R-rated movies to kids, Kuhar said, would be part of the 6,200-member group's commitment.

The reason for the shift, she said, is that members acknowledge that the reason behind what drives kids to hurt or kill is complex. All kinds of games, toys, programs, movies and music may come into play. So do family violence and a ready supply of guns, said Roseburg pediatrician Dr. Larry Hall.

"This is an incredible problem," Hall said of youth violence. "And this is a starting point."

Danielle got her start last year after the Columbine High School shootings. In a telephone interview -- a soccer tournament prevented her from attending the medical meeting -- Danielle said the murders made her think of aggressive, back-talking classmates who played lots of violent video games.

So she started a petition to stop businesses from letting kids play the games in her hometown. Today, about a dozen Coos county shops have yanked games like "Carmegeddon," where players earn "splatter points" for mowing down pedestrians in race cars.

Danielle's work earned her a speaker's spot at the Million Mom March in Portland this year as well as a $5,000 national community service award. She just says her crusading is the right thing to do.

"Little kids shouldn't be exposed to these games," she explained. "They still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny."