LAS VEGAS - Top Nevada economic development officials are defending a decision to offer incentives to a video game company under attack by the National Rifle Association.
NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has cited Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.'s "Grand Theft Auto" game in his argument that curtailing violent video games is more important than gun control.
Last month, the Nevada Economic Development Board unanimously signed off on a plan to invest $600,000 in tax dollars toward the New York-based company's relocation of a quality assurance group to Las Vegas. The board took the action on Dec. 14, the same day a gunman killed 20 children and six adults inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Gov. Brian's Sandoval's economic development director, Steve Hill, told the Las Vegas Sun that the state welcomes Take-Two's move.
"We're happy that Take-Two chose Nevada and is bringing 150 really good jobs. We are happy to have them here," he said.
"It's unfair to imply a correlation between such a horrible tragedy (school shooting) without any evidence there is a correlation" with the kind of games Take-Two makes, Hill added.
"Grand Theft Auto" is a popular video game in which players steal cars - often violently. They also can participate in all manner of virtual mayhem, including clubbing to death a prostitute to avoid paying for sex.
A spokesman for Take-Two said the company is not involved in the debate over video game violence and referred queries to the industry's trade association. Calls to the Entertainment Software Association were not immediately returned.
Secretary of State Ross Miller defended his vote as member of the state board to approve money for the company, saying he doesn't believe violent video games play a role in mass shootings.
State Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Reno, said a decency test would be difficult to administer in economic development.
"I personally have concerns about violent games, having raised three children. But on the economic development side, it's a bit of a slippery slope once you start making judgments on companies based on whether or not you approve of the product," Smith told the Sun.
Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, added, "I mean, please, with all of our institutionalized vices, I don't think we're in a position to make that call."
After the Connecticut school shooting, LaPierre decried violent video games and films.
"There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people. Through vicious, violent video games with names like 'Bullet Storm,' 'Grand Theft Auto,' 'Mortal Combat,' and 'Splatterhouse,"' he said.