[updated with firearms incident in Missouri]
NEW YORK — Walmart has ordered workers to remove video game signs and displays that depict violence from stores nationwide after 22 people died in a shooting at one of its Texas stores, but the big box retailer will continue to sell guns.
In an internal memo, the retailer told employees to remove any violent marketing material, unplug Xbox and PlayStation consoles that show violent video games and turn off any violence depicted on screens in its electronics departments.
Employees also were asked to shut off hunting season videos in the sporting goods department where guns are sold. “Remove from the salesfloor or turn off these items immediately,” the memo said.
Walmart will still sell the violent video games and hasn’t made any changes to its gun sales policy, despite pressure from workers, politicians and activists to do so.
“We’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week,” Walmart spokeswoman Tara House said in an email. She declined to answer any questions beyond the statement.
Detractors panned the move as an empty gesture aimed a deflecting criticism rather than solving a problem.
“That is a non-answer and a non-solution,” said Thomas Marshall, who works at Walmart’s e-commerce division in San Bruno, California, and has helped organize a petition to get the company to stop selling guns. He said they plan to email the petition, which has more than 53,000 signatures, to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon on Friday.
After the massacre at the El Paso Walmart this weekend, McMillon said the company “will be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses.”
After the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school last year, Walmart Inc. banned sales of firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21. It had stopped selling AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015, citing weak sales.
President Donald Trump blamed “gruesome and grisly video games” for encouraging violence Monday, but there is no known link between violent video games and violent acts.
The El Paso massacre was followed by another shooting hours later in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine people.
The United States has had 254 mass shootings —instances of four or more people being shot in individual outbreaks — in 2019, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That’s more mass shootings than days so far this year.
Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University, said the move to hide violent imagery in stores was “a cheap attempt to distract consumers and the media from the real issue, which is, Walmart continues to sell guns.”
Social media users slammed the move, too, and #BoycottWalmart was trending Friday on Twitter.
Other companies have made changes after the shootings. ESPN postponed the airing of an esports competition for shooting game “Apex Legends.” And NBC Universal pulled some ads for its upcoming movie “The Hunt,” which depicted characters hunting and shooting at each other.
The killings have put the country on edge.
On Friday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat running for president, blasted Walmart in a tweet.
“The weapons they sell are killing their own customers and employees. No profit is worth those lives. Do the right thing —stop selling guns,” she wrote.
Incident in Missouri
On Thursday, panicked shoppers fled a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, after a man carrying firearms walked around the store before being stopped by an off-duty firefighter. No shots were fired and the man was arrested after surrendering.
On Friday, prosecutors filed a terrorist threat charge against the 20-year-old man, who said he walked into the store wearing body armor and carrying a loaded rifle and handgun to test whether Walmart would honor his constitutional right to bear arms.
The man, Dmitriy Andreychenko, filmed himself with his cellphone Thursday afternoon as he moved through the store.
“Missouri protects the right of people to open carry a firearm, but that does not allow an individual to act in a reckless and criminal manner endangering other citizens,” Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson said in a statement announcing the charge. Patterson compared the man’s actions to “falsely shouting fire in a theater causing a panic.”
If convicted, the felony charge of making a terrorist threat in the second degree is punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, according to the prosecutor’s office. The charge means he showed reckless disregard for the risk of causing an evacuation or knowingly caused fear that lives were in danger.
“I wanted to know if Walmart honored the Second Amendment,” a probable cause statement released with the charges quoted Andreychenko as saying.
Andreychenko started to record himself with his phone while he was still in the car parked at Walmart. He got the body armor from the trunk of his car and put it on before grabbing a shopping cart and walking into the store, according to the statement.
Andreychenko said his intention was to buy grocery bags. The rifle had a loaded magazine inserted, but a round was not chambered. A handgun on his right hip was loaded with one round in the chamber.
He said he bought the rifle and body armor because of three recent shootings and a stabbing, and said he wanted to protect himself.
His wife, Angelice Andreychenko, told investigators that she warned him it was not a good idea, adding that he was an immature boy.