Walmart stores are reportedly removing "signing and displays referencing violence," including signage and playable demos for video games, following recent shootings at two of its stores.
On July 30, a gunman shot two Walmart employees and injured a police officer at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi. The following Saturday, on August 3, a 21-year-old man killed 22 people and wounded 24 others at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Days after the shooting, President Trump blamed, in part, "gruesome and grisly video games," as well as mental health issues, for mass shootings in America, despite evidence that suggests otherwise.
This week, Walmart sent employees a notice titled "Immediate Action: Remove Signing and Displays Referencing Violence." Freelance writer Kenneth Shepard posted an image of the notice on Twitter, and other copies have circulated on Reddit. "Review your store for any signing or displays that contain violent images or aggressive behavior," the notice reads. "Remove from the salesfloor or turn off these items immediately." It's unclear how widely the notice was circulated.
The notice instructs workers to remove demos of "violent games, specifically PlayStation or Xbox units," events for "combat style or third-person shooter games" scheduled in the electronics department, movies depicting violence, and hunting season videos playing in the sporting goods section. It also noted that merchandisers from Anderson Merchandisers, a service provider for Walmart, will send out representatives to update display consoles and demo units "within the next week."
"I immediately threw it away because it’s obviously a way to shift the blame from the real problem regarding the mass shootings"
VICE was able to independently confirm that Walmart is asking employees to remove signing referencing violence.
"I went into work yesterday and they handed me a copy of the instructions to remove the violent signage and gaming displays," a Walmart employee who received the notice and asked to be quoted anonymously told VICE. "And I immediately threw it away because it’s obviously a way to shift the blame from the real problem regarding the mass shootings. I didn’t get to confirm this yesterday but they aren’t doing anything about the sales of guns and ammo in the store."
The argument that video games are to blame for mass shootings often distracts from larger issues that do contribute greatly to mass shootings in the country—for example, gun laws and racist ideology. This isn't to say, however, that video games and the community don't have problems; they do. And firearm manufacturers do see gamers who play titles that feature their brand name weapons as potential customers.
Notably, the company’s memo does not mention the removal of actual guns for sale from Walmart stores. Despite pleas from gun control activists and employees, Walmart said this week that there's "been no change in [its gun] policy," according to USA Today.
“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 spokesperson Tara House said, noting that Walmart is continuing "a thoughtful and thorough review of our policies."
Update: This article was updated with comment from Walmart.