Walmart is facing increasing pressure to pull guns from its shelves in the wake of the recent shootings at its El Paso, Texas and Southaven, Miss. stores that killed 24 people. Shoppers were also on edge after a man in body armor and armed with a rifle sparked panic at a Missouri store on Thursday.
Instead, Walmart WMT, -1.14% ordered employees to remove video game signs that depicted violence, as well as displays for movies and hunting videos that reference gun violence. Now shoppers and the American Federation of Teachers have threatened to stop shopping at the retail giant, with #BoycottWalmart trending on Twitter TWTR, -1.28% on Friday.
“Let’s stop going to Walmart until they stop messing guns and ammo,” tweeted David Hogg, one of the Parkland, Fl. students who co-founded March for Our Lives following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff. “Make money, arm shooters, Walmart,” he added.
Walmart stopped selling handguns in the 1990s (except for Alaska), and it stopped selling assault-style weapons in 2015. It also restricted gun and ammunition sales to anyone under 21 after the Parkland shooting last year. But otherwise, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told MarketWatch earlier this week that, “right now, there have been no changes to our firearms policy.”
That could change, as Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday that “we are a learning organization, and, as you can imagine, we will work to understand the many important issues that arise from El Paso and Southaven, as well as those that have been raised in the broader national discussion around gun violence.”
But many shoppers don’t think removing video game and movie displays that depict gun violence goes far enough. There is no evidence to show a causal link between violent video games and mass shootings, after all, with one expert telling the New York Times that “the data on bananas causing suicide is about as conclusive.” Yet shooter and fighter games have been blamed for real-life violence for decades. This week, President Trump also linked “gruesome and grisly videogames” to the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.
And the nation’s largest teachers union, which counts 1.7 million members, also called for Walmart to not only stop selling guns, but to stop supporting politicians who oppose gun control. “If Walmart continues to provide funding to lawmakers who are standing in the way of gun reform, teachers and students should reconsider doing their back-to-school shopping at your stores,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten wrote in an Aug. 7 open letter to Walmart’s CEO, as reported by CBS News, noting that teachers spend $500 a year on school supplies.
Earlier this week, a New York Times column also wrote an open letter to Walmart’s CEO claiming that he has a “moral responsibility” to curb gun violence, not to mention the economic influence to do so.
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