By Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump met on Thursday with the makers of popular video games "Grand Theft Auto" and "Doom" to discuss what the president believes is a link between video games and violent acts like last month's school shooting in Florida.
It was the latest in a series of meetings Trump has held to talk about how to stop mass shootings at schools. Trump has said he would consider a wide range of policy options, but has not yet clarified his positions on how best to address gun violence.
The meeting included lawmakers, critics of video games, and executives from Take-Two Interactive Software Inc, which owns "Grand Theft Auto," and ZeniMax Media Inc, owner of "Doom." Trump's younger brother Robert Trump is on the board of ZeniMax.
Trump, a Republican, has talked about the need to examine how violence in media affects children, after a 19-year-old gunman was accused of killing 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida and injuring more than a dozen others.
The president's free-wheeling deliberations on gun violence during the past month have mainly taken place in full view of reporters. Thursday's session was closed to media shortly before it began when an unrelated event was added to Trump's schedule.
The conversation lasted for almost an hour and was "vigorous" but "respectful," and Trump seemed to be interested in hearing from all sides, said Melissa Henson of the Parents Television Council, a group that advocates against violence and sex in entertainment.
Trump has made the issue personal, taking the unusual step last week of mentioning his concern for his 11-year-old son, Barron. "I look at some of the things he's watching, and I say, how is that possible?" he said.
The video game industry has said there is no evidence of a connection between its product and violent conduct.
"Video games are plainly not the issue: entertainment is distributed and consumed globally, but the U.S. has an exponentially higher level of gun violence than any other nation," said Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for lobby group the Entertainment Software Association, earlier.
But Trump said during the meeting that some studies have found a correlation between video game violence and real violence, the White House said.
His discussions with the group "centered on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitize our community to violence," the White House said in a statement.
The Entertainment Software Association, which includes Electronic Arts Inc, Activision Blizzard Inc, Nintendo Co Ltd, Sony Corp and Tencent Holdings Ltd, was part of the White House meeting.
The video game makers and their lobbyist who were in the meeting did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
ZeniMax and Take-Two were also part of a White House discussion on the same issue five years ago after a shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school left 26 dead.
Afterward, then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat, pressed for Congress to give the Centers for Disease Control $10 million to research the causes of gun violence, including the role played by video games.
Trump is considering support for a range of legislative options, including toughening up background checks for gun buyers.
His administration is also working to block the use of bump stocks accessories that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds a minute.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by Roberta Rampton and James Oliphant; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Rosalba O'Brien)