Walmart is removing from its stores nationwide signs, displays or videos that depict violence following a mass shooting at one of its stores in Texas, though it has not changed its policy on gun sales.
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 consoles, and to monitor and turn off any violence depicted on screens in its electronics departments.
Employees were also ordered to turn off hunting season videos in the sporting goods department where guns are sold.
Under the heading: "Immediate Action," employees were instructed to "Review your store for any signing or displays that contain violent images or aggressive behavior. 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 spokeswoman Tara House in an email to The Associated Press on Friday.
The company's policy on sales of video games that depict violence has not changed, nor has its policy on gun sales.
Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 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.
There is no known link between violent video games and violent acts.
Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University 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% were interested in violent video games, compared with 70% of the general population, he explained in his 2017 book "Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong."
The killings in Texas, followed by another in Dayton, Ohio, just hours later that left nine dead, have put the country on edge.
On Thursday, five days after the El Paso shooting, panicked shoppers fled a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri, after a man carrying a rifle and wearing body armor walked around the store before being stopped by an off-duty firefighter.
No shots were fired and the man was arrested after surrendering.
A backfiring motorcycle in New York's Times Square set off a stampede Tuesday. Video footage showed the throngs rushing out of the busy tourism and entertainment area, some taking cover behind vehicles and in doorways.
The New York Police Department took to social media saying, "There is no #ActiveShooter in #TimesSquare. Motorcycles backfiring while passing through sounded like gun shots."
There have been 254 mass shooting in the United States this, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That means there have been more instances of four or more people being shot in individual outbreaks of violence than there have been days in 2019.
The latest shootings have supercharged an already hot political topic this year.
On Friday, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren blasted the company in a tweet.
"Companies that sell guns have a responsibility to the safety of their communities. @Walmart is one of the largest gun retailers in the world. The weapons they sell are killing their own customers and employees.
"No profit is worth those lives. Do the right thing_stop selling guns," Warren tweeted.
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' 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.