As Ire Over Gun Sales Builds, Walmart Conducts a ‘Thorough’ Policy Review

Retailer pulls video game imagery, but still sells rifles and shotguns

Young woman shopping at walmart's game/electronics department
Walmart has pulled in-store displays for some violent content, but it is unclear if it will continue to sell guns.
Walmart

After a mass shooting inside a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas—which came on the heels of a Walmart employee gunning down two coworkers inside another store in Mississippi—the retailer has removed in-store displays of violent video games.

But Walmart, which sells rifles and shotguns in some of its stores, has not commented on any additional changes beyond acknowledging a “thorough review” of its policies.

“We’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week,” said Tara House, senior director of corporate communications, in a statement. House added: “This action does not reflect a long-term change in our video game assortment.”

House did not respond to additional queries, including whether the decision was influenced by President Donald Trump’s comments that violence is being glorified in American culture in part because of “gruesome and grisly video games.”

However, scientific studies have found no link between playing violent video games and committing violent acts. Meanwhile, an analysis of gun-control laws found that states with stricter policies saw fewer mass-shooting incidents.

In a statement, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon promised a “thoughtful and thorough review of our policies” and said the retailer is focused on its employees and surrounding communities in the meantime.

As a means to that end, Walmart established a resource center offering counseling in El Paso, where the shooter killed 22 people and wounded dozens more inside the store on Aug. 3. It also donated $400,000 to community foundations, along with food and water to hospitals and a family reunification center.

Meanwhile, a Change.org petition started by Walmart employees seeks bolder change: They want the retailer to stop selling guns altogether.

“We value Walmart and our fellow associates, but we are no longer willing to contribute our labor to a company that profits from the sale of deadly weapons,” the petition says. “We urge our leadership to cease the sale of all firearms and ammunition, ban the public open and concealed carry of weapons on company property and in all stores, and cease [Walmart political action committee] WALPAC donations to [National Rifle Association] NRA-backed -A/A+ politicians.”

Those grades refer to the NRA’s NRF Political Victory Fund, a PAC that ranks candidates for office based on their voting records, public statements and responses to a questionnaire about gun policy.

As of early Friday afternoon, more than 54,000 people had signed the employee petition. A representative for the petitioners did not respond to a request for comment. Walmart also declined to comment on the petition.

The retailer previously raised the minimum age to buy firearms and ammunition to 21 in February 2018 in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. It also stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015.

“Nonetheless, Walmart remains one of the largest retailers of firearms in the United States, and there is a direct correlation between the number/availability of guns and the amount of mass shootings per capita,” the petition notes.

Online petitions are not the only collective action in the works. The American Federation of Teachers, the country’s largest union of educators with 1.7 million members, has threatened to boycott Walmart just before back-to-school season if it doesn’t