The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed sympathy for a California law that aims to keep children from buying ultra-violent video games in which players maim, kill or sexually assault images of people, reports the Associated Press. But justices seemed closely split on whether the restrictions are constitutional. The high court has been reluctant to carve out exceptions to the First Amendment, striking down a ban on videos showing graphic violence to animals earlier this year. California officials argue that they should be allowed to limit minors’ ability to pick up violent video games on their own at retailers because of the purported damage they cause to the mental development of children. Some justices appeared to agree.

“We do not have a tradition in this country of telling children they should watch people actively hitting schoolgirls over the head with a shovel so they’ll beg with mercy, being merciless and decapitating them, shooting people in the leg so they fall down,” Chief Justice John Roberts said.

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staff and wire services reports