Email letters, May 2, 2013

Science on effects of violent video games still disputed

Now that Congress has rejected gun laws and people have had time to cool down, perhaps a discussion in a related topic can be had from a more rational perspective.

Last December, NRA leader Wayne LaPierre lashed out against a video game industry that “sells, and sows violence against its own people.” LaPierre’s quote is old news, but the call for the government to “do something” continues. This refrain represents a waste of legislative and judicial resources.

The First Amendment protects video game content, even for minors. For years, courts have been striking down laws attempting to ban video games; however, the Supreme Court decided the issue in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2010).

This case was not a narrow five-to-four split; seven of the nine justices voted to strike down California’s prohibition against selling violent games to minors.

The evidence does not support a link between video games and violent acts. While some studies indicate video games can increase aggression, other research such as that conducted by Cunningham, Englestatter and Ward (2011) suggest that games may actually reduce crime rates by providing an alternative activity to people predisposed towards crime.

This reduction in crime could account for the twenty-year decline in the rate of violent crimes observable on the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ website.

As long as the science is disputed, violent video game bans will not pass the “strict scrutiny” required to override a constitutional right.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average gamer is now 30 years old. That makes video games are a form of adult entertainment.

Any legislation seeking to infringe on this right will generate costly, and ultimately successful, legal challenges. The public needs to focus on the proven causes of violence, rather than inventing new ones.

Grand Junction

Oil shale industry can handle technical issues

In regard to the story last weekend concerning American Shale Oil Corporation experiencing an issue with its down-hole technology, I don’t see it as a huge setback.

In fact, I am encouraged and excited to see oil shale technology develop to the point where it now seems to be dealing with the usual hiccups that can happen in an industry that does precision work at the bottom of a well that is thousands of feet deep.

Having worked in the high-tech oil and gas industry for many years, I am quite familiar with technical problems. I am, however, also familiar with the ability of the men and women in our industry who deal with, and triumph over, these sorts of problems every day. So, I am pretty confident that AMSO will get this figured out.

It’s only too bad that once they do get their technology working, the government will not allow them to go commercial with it, thanks to the BLM’s oil shale “plan,” recently adopted by former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, which withdrew nearly all of Colorado’s prime oil shale land from ever being considered for leasing. Even if the bureaucrats are satisfied that AMSO’s method works, and see fit to grant them a commercial lease, there is simply not enough available land left to support a commercial oil shale industry.

I am sure AMSO’s private sector engineers will figure out a solution to their problem and get them back in business. Soon the only remaining obstacle to developing the technology to unleash this incredible source of American energy will be the American government.

Grand Junction

Gosnell abortion trial reveals fatal flaw in pro-choice thinking

A couple of recent events present stark illustrations of where the pro-choice mindset has escorted us as a society.  “Reproductive freedom” sounds so wonderful, but when we see what it really means, some of the shine fades, to say the least. 

First, we go to Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial.  Gosnell is the Philadelphia abortionist who is being charged with four counts of murder, including a 41-year-old woman, and three infants who survived his late-term abortion procedure.

Gosnell’s former clinic worker testified that the babies were killed by being stabbed by scissors in the back of their necks.  Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old Bhutanese refugee, died when she was administered an overdose of sedatives.
There were other gruesome aspects of this practice, but suffice it to say, these were the most horrific.

And in March, during a hearing in the Florida House of Representatives on a bill that would obligate doctors to provide care for a child that survived an abortion, Alisa LaPolt Snow, representing Planned Parenthood, stunned the committee and the world.  Repeatedly the legislators asked her, essentially, “If a baby is born alive, as a result of an abortion, and is breathing on a table, what should happen to that baby?”  Her only reply was to repeat the pro-choice mantra that “any decision should be between the woman, her family, and the physician.”
I think it’s time we realize that ideas have consequences.  The idea that “it’s a matter between the woman and her doctor” is ludicrous.  If we think, as the court has ruled, that the unborn have no rights, then this is what comes of such thinking.

For many years, our laws have paved the way for this exact situation.  Any suggestion that the pro-choice crowd finds these events surprising or objectionable is irrational, or phony, or both.


Branscomb made timely warning about dangers of voting bill

Sentinel readers should pay special heed to Harvie Branscomb’s timely warning about the potential pitfalls inherent in HB 13-1303 (“Voting bill gives too much power to election officials”, May 2).

According to the Carter Center’s internationally acclaimed Democracy Project, truly “democratic” elections should be conducted by impartial officials, employ permanently   “secret ballots,” and be entirely transparent —before, during, and after elections.

Laudably, HB 13-1303 creates a Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission – an ostensibly “impartial” panel capable of objectively evaluating both the wisdom of proposals championed by the Colorado County Clerks Association and/or their implementation by our unabashedly partisan secretary of state.

However, HB 13-1303 neither reaffirms Colorado’s constitutional commitment to the “secret ballot” nor restores previously lost transparency, but instead “sunsets” in 2015.

Moreover, HB 13-1303 allocates two commission seats to the CCCA — without requiring that taxpayer-supported and thus quasi-public (if not partisan) organization to disclose its outside sources of lobbying funds – despite the CCCA’s demonstrated disdain for ballot secrecy and concerted opposition to genuine election transparency.

Therefore, HB 13-1303’s election law changes should be deferred until the commission has duly considered both public input and the advice of “election rights experts” to be appointed by Gov. Hickenlooper.

While Colorado’s county clerks may indeed be “experts” as to how they have conducted past elections and how the CCCA wants future elections to be conducted, their purported expertise as to how our elections ought best be conducted remains dubiously constrained by their own self-interest as partisan elected officials.

The ultimate goal should be to have all voted ballots – impenetrably anonymous as Colorado’s Constitution requires – posted on the Internet for all to see before any election is officially certified, and to make the commission permanent (like the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) in furtherance of that objective.


Grand Junction


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