Do Video Games Make People Kill? Trump Talks With Industry Leaders and Members of Congress

Following the violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, President Donald Trump named violence in video games a potential area of concern regarding school shootings, moving the discussion away from gun reform.

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While that opinion was disparaged almost immediately by some, Trump moved forward Thursday with a plan to bring members of Congress representing opposing sides of the issue together with members of the video game industry to discuss whether violence in video games leads to violence in real life.

Prior to the meeting, the White House released a statement:

“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 Lindsay Walters, White House Deputy Press Secretary. “This meeting will be the first of many with industry leaders to discuss this important issue.”

Attendees included Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Representative Martha Roby (R-AL). Also in attendance were Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two Interactive (Former Chairman of ESA), CEO of Rockstar Games; Brent Bozell, Media Research Center; Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (Ret.), “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” and “Assassination Generation: Video Games, Aggression, and the Psychology of Killing”; Pat Vance, President of Entertainment Software Rating Board; Mike Gallagher, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association; Robert Altman, Chairman and CEO of ZeniMax Media (parent company of Bethesda Softworks); and Melissa Henson, Mother from Parents Television Council.

[T]he meeting will also include Rep. Vicky Hartzler — a Missouri Republican who said after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that the federal government needed to address violence in video games, not gun violence — and Brent Bozell, the head of the Media Research Center, who argued after Sandy Hook that Democrats deny “our violent media has any influence on these under-21 shooters.”
“Unproven and emotionally driven gun control legislation is a common and simplistic response to gun-related tragedies, but such lawmaking usually fails to address the underlying problem,” she wrote in a 2013 Politico op-ed. “We must have a meaningful conversation about mental health issues and other possible cultural and societal contributors to violent behavior, such as violence in video games.”

According to USA Today, 67% of homes in the U.S. have some sort of gaming device, while only 11% of video games released in 2016 were rated for ages 17 and older. Additionally, USA Today reports there is some research indicating a link between violent video games and increased aggression. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed such a link in the majority opinion of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2011 that overturned California’s ban on sales of violent games to minors.