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White House claims Trump to meet with video game makers over violence, but no invitations sent

The White House announced on Thursday that President Donald Trump will meet with executives from the video game industry next week to talk about gun violence, but the ESA, which represents the industry, said "our member companies have not received an invitation."
Image: Donald Trump school and community safety discussion
President Donald Trump speaks with members of Congress to discuss school and community safety on Feb. 28, 2018.Carolyn Kaster / AP

The White House announced on Thursday that President Donald Trump will meet with executives from the video game industry next week to talk about gun violence.

But the industry is hitting the pause button on that notion.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the press briefing that the meeting will be in the context of issues of violence and school safety, and the executives will offer their input "to see what they can do on that front."

Later Thursday, the Entertainment Software Association, which represents video game companies, said that the meeting is news to them.

"ESA and our member companies have not received an invitation to meet with President Trump," the group said in a statement.

While Trump indicated support for a series of gun measures on Wednesday in a meeting with Capitol Hill lawmakers, last week he also talked about the problem with violence in video games and movies, and suggested that the current rating system was not adequate.

It's unclear if the White House will seek a similar meeting with studio reps and the MPAA.

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, then-Vice President Joseph Biden held a series of meetings with different groups over the issue of gun violence. He met separately with representatives from the movie and TV business, and later from the video game industry.

No concrete action came out of the meeting, although the White House did recommend more research on the connection between on-screen violence and real life.

The Supreme Court in 2011 struck down a previous attempt by the government to regulate the depiction of violence in video games, concluding that the games were protected by the First Amendment. At issue was a California law that attempted to restrict the sale of violence video games to minors.

The video game industry has long pushed back against claims that there is a link between on-screen violence and real-life acts.

The ESA said on Thursday that "the same video games played in the U.S. are played worldwide; however, the level of gun violence is exponentially higher in the U.S. than in other countries. Numerous authorities have examined the scientific record and found there is no link between media content and real-life violence."

The group added, "The U.S. video game industry has a long history of partnering with parents and more than 20 years of rating video games through the Entertainment Software Rating Board. We take great steps to provide tools to help players and parents make informed entertainment decisions."

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, the NRA pointed to video games and movies as contributors to a more violent society, and gun rights activists have labeled Hollywood figures who have spoken out on the issue as hypocritical given the content that comes out of the industry.

But some gun control groups also have been wary of discussion of gun violence veering off into the role of media violence, as they see it as a distraction from taking more concrete steps such as expanding background checks and restrictions on assault weapons.