Walmart downplays violent video games in wake of U.S. mass shootings
Walmart is removing signs, displays or videos from its stores nationwide that depict violence following a mass shooting at its eastern El Paso, Tex., location, in which 22 were killed.
The retailer instructed employees in an internal memo to remove any marketing material, turn off or unplug video game consoles that show violent games — specifically Xbox and PlayStation units — and to make sure that no violence is depicted on screens in its electronics departments.
Employees were also ordered to turn off hunting season videos in the sporting goods department.
Under the heading "Immediate Action," employees were instructed to "review your store for any signing or displays that contain violent images or aggressive behaviour. Remove from the salesfloor or turn off these items immediately."
"We've taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week," said spokesperson Tara House in an email to The Associated Press on Friday.
The company's policy on video games that depict violence has not changed, nor has its policy on gun sales.
The killings in Texas, followed by another in Dayton, Oh., just hours later that left nine dead, have put the country on edge.
Top Republicans cite video games
President Donald Trump and the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, each cited video games as a possible factor in the aftermath.
"We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace," Trump said from the White House on Monday.
McCarthy, a day earlier, told Fox News, "the idea of these video games that dehumanize individuals to have a game of shooting individuals and others – I've always felt that is a problem for future generations and others."
Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two Interactive, maker of the popular Grand Theft Auto series, scoffed at the criticisms this week, pointing to the popularity of all types of video games globally, including in countries not often afflicted with mass shooting events.
There is no known link between violent video games and violent acts.
Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania who focuses on video games, found in his research that men who commit severe acts of violence actually play violent video games less than the average male.
About 20 per cent were interested in violent video games, compared with 70 per cent of the general population, he explained in his 2017 book Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong.
With respect to gun sales, Walmart last year said it would no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21 after a teen was accused of killing 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Fla.
Walmart Inc. stopped selling AR-15 guns and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015.
Gunman scare at Missouri Walmart
Authorities believe Patrick Crusius, 21, wrote a racist, rambling screed that railed against mass immigration before opening fire last weekend at the El Paso Walmart.
Crusius lived near Dallas, and El Paso police say he drove more than 10 hours to the largely Latino border city in Texas to carry out the shooting that killed 22 people and wounded about two dozen others. He's been charged with capital murder.
Chris Ayres, a Dallas-based attorney for Crusius's family, told The Associated Press in an email they never heard Crusius express the kind of racist and anti-immigrant views that he allegedly posted online.
On Thursday, five days after the El Paso shooting, panicked shoppers fled a Walmart in Springfield, Mo., after a man carrying a rifle and wearing body armour walked around the store before being stopped by an off-duty firefighter.
No shots were fired and the man was arrested after surrendering.