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Trump hosts White House meeting to discuss violence in video games

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US President Donald Trump has hosted a meeting with leading figures in the gaming industry to discuss what he believes to be a dangerous link between violent video games and real-world violence.

The meeting follows February’s mass shooting, in which a teenage gunman used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and injure 12 others. The event was followed with the establishment of a gun control advocacy group by school students and the passing of a state bill to raise the minimum age for buying rifles to 21, in addition to introducing waiting periods and background checks, among other measures.

Despite blame being overwhelmingly directed at lax gun controls in the US, Trump responded by blaming the mental health of the shooter for the attack, arguing that there is a need to discuss how violent images in the media could affect young people.

Trump - who secured at least $30m (£21.6m) in donations by the pro-gun lobby during his election campaign - has offered contradictory messages about his stance on gun regulations since the attack. He has not yet clarified whether he will pro-actively work for tighter gun controls. There are some reports that the White House may be considering support for some legislation tightening gun control laws, such as by bolstering background checks for gun buyers or blocking the use of bump stock components.

Meanwhile, a closed-door meeting has been hosted at the White House to discuss whether violence in video games could be to blame for real-life violence. Trump recently expressed concern about violence in media consumed by young people, saying of his 11-year old son Barron Trump: “I look at some of the things he’s watching and I say: ‘How is that possible?’”

At the meeting, Trump was joined by politicians, critics of violent media – including representatives from the Parents Television Council and the Media Research Centre – the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which offers content guidance for video games, and a number of figures from the gaming industry. Representatives from Take-Two Interactive Software (which owns Grand Theft Auto and BioShock) and ZeniMax Media (which owns Doom and Fallout) were present, along with a representative of the Entertainment Software Association, which represents the industry.

“Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence,” an ESA statement said ahead of the meeting.

“Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the [US]. Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the US has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation.”

In a statement, the White House said that the discussions at the meetings centred on “whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitise our community to violence”. During the meeting, Trump reportedly rejected the ESA’s claim, arguing that studies had found some correlation between video game violence and real-world violence.

Trump’s decision to hold the meeting has been criticised as a distraction from working towards gun control measures.

Discussions around video games and other media considered violent or shocking have arisen following mass shootings in the US since the Columbine High School massacre of 1999, in which 12 students and a teacher were killed by two students who reportedly enjoyed video games.

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