Even so, says CBS News Correspondent Eric Engberg, this was one of those White House meetings nobody really wanted to be on the guest list for. Everyone was cautious, several Hollywood moguls ducked the meeting. The White House barred the press, and pointedly did not invite the nation's best known voice for the gun lobby, Charlton Heston.
Mr. Clinton says he's not trying to make Hollywood or the media the villains, in the aftermath of the Colorado school shooting deaths. But he made a direct appeal for their "wholehearted participation" in a national campaign against youth violence.
"I think that we and the members of the cabinet and administration who are here, like all Americans, were profoundly affected by the events in Littleton, Colo., coming as they did after so many tragic incidents in our schools last year, and we were determined to see what we could do to bring the American people together to get beyond the divisions that often attend many of the subjects here," he said.
The president continued, "In the weeks to come I will work with Congress to pass legislation that makes our schools and streets safer, keeps guns out of the wrong hands because that's part of our responsibility."
Harsh criticism was in short supply. Why? "They need their money," said Larry Makinson of the Center for Responsive Politics. "They need the cachet that comes with those industries. They want to be friends with them, particularly as we're about to head into the most expensive election in American history."
Another key player on this issue is the National Rifle Association. The NRA is one of the most feared lobbies because it spends heavily to beat political enemies. Lee Hamilton, who spent 30 years in Congress, says that special interest groups end up steering the debate on key issues like teen violence. "Politicians always know where their money comes from, and they will speak up quickly to advocate the position of their contributors."
President Clinton will visit Los Angeles this weekend -- but not to chastise any moviemakers for violence. It will be other business with Mogul David Geffen, Stephen Spielberg's partner, in Beverly Hills. The business? Raising more than a million bucks for the Democratic Party.
The president has also directed the Surgeon General to prepare the first report in more than a decade on youth violence and its causes. "Let me briefly say that with representatives of the manufacturers of guns today I want to say to the press and to the public that we have found common grounds on some common sense measures," he said.
He als says there's been a "coarsening of the culture" and that the people who influence that culture "must be sensitive to that."
The president trumpeted CBS and ABC's efforts in a voluntary television rating system, an initiative put in place by Vice President Al Gore.
"Last week the vice president also announced voluntary agreement by 95 percent of the Internet service providers to offer parents a new tool to assure that they are only one click away from the resources they need to protect their children," Mr. Clinton said.
When it was first planned, this conference was going to look at the link between the media and youth violence, but the White House backed away from that.
Gun advocates and participants from the entertainment industry say they are feeling more pressure than most, because of the newly intensified debate over the availability of weapons and whether violence among teen-agers is fomented by the images and language in movies, video games and song lyrics.
They left open the possibility of endorsing some of the administration's proposals to keep guns out of the hands of young people, although they said they wanted to see the details first.
Meanwhile NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said Clinton administration officials should resist a knee-jerk urge to explore more restrictive gun laws and instead push for better enforcement of those already on the books.