Gun Control Back in Focus After Mass Shootings
Walmart Inc. (WMT.N) is removing displays of violent video games and movies in its stores in the wake of two deadly shootings at its locations in Texas and Mississippi in recent weeks.
“We’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week, and this action does not reflect a long-term change in our video game assortment,” Walmart spokeswoman Tara House said.
Walmart Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon this week said that the company will be “thoughtful and deliberate in our responses” to the shootings, which left 22 people dead in El Paso, and killed two employees at a store in Southaven, Mississippi.
The company has no plans to stop selling guns or ammunition, spokesman Randy Hargrove said in an interview on Sunday, a day after the El Paso shooting.
The move will likely spark criticism from gun-control advocates who have said that Walmart, as one of the nation’s biggest sellers of guns and ammunition with more than 4,700 stores, could do more to stem the flow of guns in the U.S. This week, a worker at Walmart’s California-based e-commerce division organized protests against the company’s policy.
Walmart’s new rules on video games were outlined in a memo distributed to stores entitled “Immediate Action: Remove Signing and Displays Referencing Violence.” The directive also said to:
Cancel any in-store events promoting “combat style or third-person shooter games that may be scheduled”
Verify that no violent movies are playing on TVs sold in the electronics department.
Turn off any hunting-season videos that may be playing in the sporting goods department, and remove any monitors that show the videos
Walmart -- whose founder, Sam Walton, was an avid hunter -- has shifted its gun policies over the years. It stopped selling handguns in 1993, and in 2015 ceased sales of assault-style rifles. Last year the company raised the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 from 18 after the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
The Parkland massacre prompted other big gun retailers, like Dick’s Sporting Goods, to also restrict sales.
Vice earlier reported Walmart’s decision on removing the displays.
Shares of Walmart fell less than one per cent to US$107.75 on Friday. They had gained about 17 per cent this year through Thursday’s close.
Some Walmart staffers expressed skepticism of the move on a popular employee message board. One posted the following: “But we still sell real actual guns. And we’re getting rid of virtual violence. Like that’s going to help anything.”