"There are some constitutional issues that call into question if you can do what my bill says or not, and I freely acknowledge that," he said. "I'm not trying to get in the way of constitutional rights of adults at all, but I'm suggesting it's at least important that we have this conversation."
In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court revoked a California law criminalizing the sale of violent video games to minors. The court ruled that video games were entitled to free speech protections under the First Amendment.
After the Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December, the executive vice president of the National Rifle Association blamed violent video games and movies — not guns — for contributing to mass shootings. Wayne LaPierre cited the games "Mortal Kombat" and "Grant Theft Auto."
The White House also called for research on the effect of media and video games on gun violence as part of a package of gun control proposals.
Matheson said he doesn't think children should be buying games with "extreme violent or sexual content," especially if the industry itself is recommending they're not appropriate for those under 17 or 18.
"I don't understand the logic of having these ratings but doing nothing to enforce them," said Paul Bury, the editor-in-chief of Family Friendly Gaming, a Christian-oriented video game publication. Bury said he supports Matheson's proposal but thinks it wouldn't hold up in court.
Matheson's bill has been assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it is awaiting a hearing.