War toys and videos again face ban in legislature

The proposal to ban war toys is back in the legislature again, and the security minister gave his support for the measure Tuesday.

The minister noted that two men with what later turned out to be a fake firearm robbed a mother and child about 11 a.m. Tuesday in  Río Banano de Limón. The suspects turned out to be men 23 and 25.

The weapon really was not a toy gun even though police called it that. A ministry photo shows it is an older Marksman brand repeater that fires a 1.77-caliber BB. The weapon would not be covered by the proposed law.

The minister, Gustavo Mata Vega, was before the  legislative Comisión de Asuntos Económicos to discuss bill No. 19.613. The measure seeks to forbid the importation and sale of war toys and establishes fines for stores that sell them.

The measure also would forbid the sale to minors of  video games with a war, military or violent content. The bill also would require public agencies like the ministry to eliminate the use of military language including rank. Also prohibited would be military symbols, combat clothing and other military items.

Saluting senior police officers also would be a no-no.

The bill is nearly identical to one that was introduced in 2007. A.M. Costa Rica noted at that time that the prohibition would extend to any item that represented a weapon or soldier, a military vehicle, a tank, war plane or ship of war. Taken literally, sculptures of horses or elephants would be prohibited because they have been used as devices of war. And a model of a 17th century navy vessel also would be covered, as well as model planes if they resembled a warplane of any vintage.

Mattel, Inc.  also has come out with a Barbie Doll dressed in combat gear.

Mata was clear in his belief that war toys and similar were changing the conduct of children. The bill summary says that war toys and video games incite children to violence and aggressiveness as well as affect their mental health and values.

The evidence offered for this position is a 2006 article by a staffer in the  Spanish Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia. The belief is widely held even though academics generally say there is no evidence that war toys or media inflict harm on children.

The bill would send any money raised in fines to an institutional committee headed by the

This is the BB-gun confiscated Tuesday

This is the BB-gun confiscated Tuesday

Ministerio de Educación Pública that would use the funds for advertising against war toys and videos. The committee also would be authorized to import other types of toys.

Police would be empowered to confiscate offending merchandise. However, the bill does not forbid persons wearing military-type clothing.

Merchants with war toys in stock would have two years to sell them and would have to place large warnings on the packages.

Video games sold to adults also would have to have a large warning that the effects of the game can damage the mental health and have psychological implications for minors.

Legislative staffers found problems with the bill, including the very broad definition of war toys. Staffers suggested that even a chess set would be covered by the bill because it simulates a battle. They also suggested that light sabers and water pistols would be covered as well as Star Wars videos.

“It is not clear if the toys and mainly the video games of fantasy where the fight is against monsters, mythological beings or aliens and eventually against beings that are not alive such as robots or androids, should be considered warlike, according to the earlier definition,” said the staffers who reviewed the bill.

They also wondered if Super Mario Bros also was violent.

Staffers also noted that a lot of the video games can be downloaded and would not show up in stores.

They also noted that the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army and even the Jesuits are organized in a military way.

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