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Walmart pulls violent video games, movies from in-store displays, signage

In wake of shooting in El Paso, retailer hides violent imagery

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Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Walmart is reportedly asking employees to remove in-store signage and video displays that show “violent images and aggressive behavior,” specifically focusing on video games, movies, and hunting videos, according to an employee memo that circulated on Twitter and Reddit, via Vice. The retail giant made the move in the wake of a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, where a shooter killed 22 people and injured at least 27 others.

According to the memo, a photo of which was published by writer Kenneth Shepard on Twitter (Shepard has previously written for Polygon), employees have been instructed to “turn off or unplug any video game display consoles that show a demo of violent video games, specifically PlayStation and Xbox units” and “remove any [signage] referencing combat or third-person shooter video games.” The memo also instructs staff to “cancel any events promoting combat style or third-person shooter games that may be scheduled in electronics [departments].”

Beyond gaming, Walmart has asked employees to “verify that no movies depicting violence are playing” and to “turn off any hunting season videos that may be playing in sporting goods” departments.

“We’ve taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week, and it does not reflect a long-term change in our video game assortment,” Tara House, a Walmart spokesperson, told Polygon via email. “We are focused on assisting our associates and their families, as well as supporting the community, as we continue a thoughtful and thorough review of our policies.”

Walmart’s effort to remove displays of violence from its store come as President Trump and GOP politicians have attempted to place blame on video games for real-world violence. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” Trump said on Monday. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this.”

On Monday, Walmart said it has not changed its policy on gun sales in the wake of two mass shootings over the past weekend, according to a report from Reuters. But on Wednesday, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon indicated that the company was considering reevaluating its role as a retailer of firearms.

“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,” McMillon said in a corporate statement. “We will be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses, and we will act in a way that reflects the best values and ideals of our company, with a focus on serving the needs of our customers, associates and communities.”

Update: This story has been updated with a statement from Walmart. The headline has also been updated.