President Trump met with representatives of the video game industry and its critics of video game violence behind closed doors Thursday to discuss gun violence in the wake of a mass school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead.
Attendees described the summit as a listening session for the president, who has expressed concerns about violence in video games.
“He was clearly concerned about some of this imagery that you’re seeing in these ultra-violent video games that are being watched by children,” Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center and a frequent critic of video game violence, said in an interview with The Hill.
Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council, which advocates for greater restrictions on the entertainment industry, added that the meeting wasn’t about coming up with a solution, but rather as the first part of long-running discussion.
“He wasn’t proposing any solutions, he was asking people around the table what they wanted to see happen,” Henson said in a call with reporters.
The industry representatives made the case that there’s been no established link between violent video games and violent behavior.
“We welcomed the opportunity today to meet with the President and other elected officials at the White House,” the Entertainment Software Association, an industry group, said in a statement. “We discussed the numerous scientific studies establishing that there is no connection between video games and violence, First Amendment protection of video games, and how our industry’s rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment choices. We appreciate the President’s receptive and comprehensive approach to this discussion.”
Other attendees included two video game company executives and three Republican members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
“Today’s meeting with the president and leaders of the video game industry was informative,” Rubio said in a statement. “While to date there is no evidence linking violent video games to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, as both a father and a policy maker I have an interest in making sure parents are aware of the resources available to them to monitor and control the entertainment their children are exposed to.”
Studies have not been able to establish that violent video games lead to violent behavior, but critics like Bozell and Henson argue that there still needs to be stiffer parental controls in place to keep graphic imagery out of the hands of children.
At a White House meeting last month, Trump said he was concerned about violence in video games and movies, and called for them to be subject to ratings. Both industries already have ratings systems in place, but Bozell said that they are insufficient at keeping graphic imagery out of the hands of children, despite what he sees as their potential to cause trauma.
“Why not treat it like tobacco? Why not treat it like liquor? Why not treat it like pornography?” Bozell said.
The White House said the meeting was the first in a series of ongoing discussions to address gun violence.
Updated: 6:25 p.m.