Gun control advocates on Friday were outraged to learn of Walmart’s so-called plan to combat gun violence less than a week after 22 people were shot to death in one of its stores in El Paso, Texas—rather than ending its status as one of the largest purveyors of guns in the U.S., the corporation asked employees to remove store displays that show “violent themes or aggressive behavior.”
The company’s 4,750 stores were directed to turn off video game consoles showing demos of violent games, to make sure no violent movies play in the stores’ electronics sections, and to remove any signs throughout the store that reference first person shooter games or other violent games.
“This new policy does nothing to make us feel safe going to work. Guns in the hands of white supremacists are the threat—not video games.” —Walmart employeesWalmart has no plans to stop selling guns or ammunition, as it does in about half its stores.
Some of the company’s 1.5 million U.S. workers were among those who condemned the decision to focus on video games rather than the easy access to firearms and ammunition that Walmart has contributed to.
The condemnation came in the wake of the El Paso shooting as well as another massacre of nine people in Dayton, Ohio just 13 hours later.
Organized by the national group United for Respect, employees released a statement calling CEO Doug McMillon’s decision “irresponsible and weak.”
“This new policy does nothing to make us feel safe going to work,” the workers said. “Guns in the hands of white supremacists are the threat—not video games. Doug McMillon continues to put our safety at risk by being complicit in Trump’s racism and xenophobia.”
As with many high-profile mass shootings, after the massacres in El Paso and Dayton, President Donald Trump and other Republicans were quick to point to “gruesome and grisly video games” as the cause of the attacks. Trump called on the nation to “condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy”—as progressive groups have been since he took office—but didn’t acknowledge his own racist rhetoric and policies.
The president also said Friday that the National Rifle Association’s views on guns must be “fully represented and respected” as the nation debates stronger gun control measures.
The Walmart employees called on McMillon to resign from his position on the president’s economic advisory council and stand on the side of the majority of Americans who say guns should be harder to purchase.
“If he wants to show support for associates and our families’ safety, he should step down from his advisory role in the Trump administration and publicly reject the president’s and the Republican Party’s racism and xenophobia,” the employees said.
The consumer advocacy group Public Citizen was among the critics which quickly debunked the president’s and company’s suggestion that video game—and displays advertising them in stores—are a risk factor for mass shootings.
While video games are more popular in Japan than any other country, the group noted, the Japanese Consulate in Detroit this week issued a safety alert to travelers from the country, warning that the U.S. is a “gun society” where there is “potential for gunfire incidents everywhere.”
Fred Guttenberg, who has become an outspoken advocate for strict gun control legislation following the death of his daughter Jaime and 16 of her classmates in Parkland, Florida in 2018, called on Walmart to “stop hiding behind made up issues.”
On social media, survivors of the Parkland shooting were among those who tweeted about Walmart’s decision and called on Americans to stop shopping at the corporation’s stores, using the hashtag #BoycottWalmart.