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Trump invites game industry to gun violence meeting this week

The ESA looks forward to having a ‘fact-based conversation’

President Trump at annual NRA meeting in Atlanta, April 2017
President Trump at annual NRA meeting in Atlanta, April 2017.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Entertainment Software Association, the leading video game trade group, tells Polygon that it received today an invitation to meet with the Trump administration. That invitation comes four days after a meeting with “members of the video game industry” was announced during a White House press briefing.

The meeting will take place Thursday, March 8, and is expected to discuss gun violence in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. Authorities have announced no connection to video games, and it’s unclear what role, if any, games played in that incident.

“The upcoming meeting at the White House, which ESA will attend, will provide the opportunity to have a fact-based conversation about video game ratings, our industry’s commitment to parents, and the tools we provide to make informed entertainment choices,” the ESA told Polygon in a statement.

Last week, President Donald Trump held a televised meeting with lawmakers about gun violence. NPR described the event as “freewheeling” and noted that Trump maintained several conflicting positions simultaneously. Among those positions was the idea that guns should be taken away from violent individuals without due process, which seemed at odds with a position held during the meeting by Vice President Mike Pence, who was seated across the table from him. The confusion brought on by the president’s statements led the Senate to sideline any attempts at crafting significant gun legislation at this time.

After the bizarre meeting, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked why the president was unable to get legislators to “bend to his will” on matters of gun control. Sanders proceeded to shift the focus away from guns and toward the video game industry.

“Next week, he’ll also be meeting with members of the video game industry to see what they can do on that front as well,” Sanders said. “This is going to be an ongoing process and something that we don’t expect to happen overnight, but something that we’re going to continue to be engaged in and continue to look for the best ways possible to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect schools across the country.”

Reached for comment at the time, the ESA said it was not aware of any meeting. Today’s statement from the ESA is firm. It cedes no ground to the Trump administration on the question of video games’ potential relationship with gun violence.

“Video games are enjoyed around the world and numerous authorities and reputable scientific studies have found no connection between games and real-life violence,” said the ESA. “Like all Americans, we are deeply concerned about the level of gun violence in the United States. 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.”

The ESA established the Entertainment Software Rating Board in 1994 — the same year as the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which Congress allowed to expire in 2004, went into effect. The ESRB’s rating system is applied to all games sold in the U.S. and has been shown by the Federal Trade Commission to be successful at keeping mature games out of the hands of children.

This won’t be the first time the game industry has discussed gun violence with White House officials. In January 2013, following the Sandy Hook school shooting, representatives from the ESA, ESRB and a number of prominent game publishers met with then-Vice President Joe Biden and his Gun Violence Commission.

Polygon has reached out to the White House for more details on the nature of the meeting, the planned topics of discussion and the full list of attendees.

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