Video Game CEOs, Watchdog Groups Among Attendees at White House Gun Violence Meeting

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WASHINGTON — President Trump’s meeting on Thursday with representatives of the video game industry will include several CEOs as well as representatives from a parents group and media watchdog organizations.

The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss video games and gun violence. House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated that part of the discussion would be whether there is a causal link between on-screen mayhem and real-life aggression.

The White House list of participants includes Strauss Zelnick of Take Two Interactive and the CEO of Rockstar Games; Pat Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board; Mike Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association; and Robert Altman, chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Media, which is the parent company of Bethesda Networks.

Also scheduled are Melissa Henson, program director of the Parents Television Council, and Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog group.

Also scheduled is Dave Grossman, a retired lieutenant colonel who is the author of “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society,” and “Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression and the Psychology of Killing.” The books look at the influence of the media in the desensitization of society toward violence and aggression.

Three lawmakers are scheduled to attend: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) and Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.).

“As we continue to work towards creating school safety programs that protect all children, the president will be meeting with video game industry leaders and members of Congress to discuss violent video-game exposure and the correlation to aggression and desensitization in children,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters. “This meeting will be the first of many with industry leaders to discuss this important issue.”

The ESA, which represents the video game industry, has long pushed back against claims that video game violence causes real-life aggression.

“Many games with violent content sold in the U.S. – and some with far more violence – are also sold in foreign markets,” the ESA says on its website. “However, the level of violent crime in these foreign markets is considerably lower than that in the U.S., suggesting that influences such as the background of the individual, the availability of guns and other factors are more relevant to understanding the cause of any particular crime.”

They are expected to make that point at the White House meeting.

The meeting does not include representatives from TV or movies, but the Parents Television Council unveiled a study that found fault with the current broadcast ratings system. They are calling for a reform of the TV content ratings system and for a reduction in violence on TV.

“On a nightly basis, the publicly-owned airwaves are a toxic environment awash with depictions of violence and gun violence,” the PTC said.

Bozell has been particularly vocal about the linkage of video games and media violence to mass shootings, In 2013, he wrote that President Barack Obama’s response to the Newtown, Conn. shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary focused too much on gun control.

“Neither gun makers nor video game makers mean for their products for mass shootings, but politicians like Obama have singled out the gun makers and gone soft on their entertainment-industry campaign donors,” he wrote. “Somehow, Democrats isolate the inherent evil of a gun almost as if it’s self-shooting, while denying our violent media has any influence on these under-21 shooters.”

The White House indicated that this will be one of a number of meetings on gun violence in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting.