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story.lead_photo.caption Police respond to a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Springfield, Mo., on Thursday where officers arrested an armed man who showed up the store wearing body armor, sending panicked shoppers fleeing.

Walmart is removing signs, displays or videos that depict violence from its stores in response to 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 also were 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.

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Walmart Inc. banned sales of firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21. It had stopped selling AR-15s and other similar 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 other men. 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 people dead, have put the country on edge.

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 armor walked around the store before being stopped by an off-duty firefighter.

No shots were fired and the man was arrested after surrendering.

The scare was all too real in the wake of the recent shootings that led to the deaths of 34 people. And though statistically rare, such incidents are increasingly part of the grim calculus that retailers and other businesses must reflect in their planning, training, and risk assessments to protect their customers, their workers and their bottom lines.

There have been 254 mass shooting in the United States this year, 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.

Supporters of stricter gun laws have said that Walmart, as one of the nation's biggest sellers of guns and ammunition with more than 4,700 stores, could do more to stem the flow of firearms in the U.S. This week, a worker at Walmart's e-commerce division in California organized protests against the company's policy.

"Walmart will now become a target for activists," said Ron Culp, an expert on crisis management and former head of public relations at Sears, who now teaches at DePaul University. "Pressure will continue to build so I'd get out in front with some sort of position that goes beyond video games in the store. They have to display leadership on this issue."

The latest shootings have supercharged an already hot political topic this year.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are among the Democratic presidential hopefuls urging Walmart to stop selling guns.

"Companies that sell guns have a responsibility to the safety of their communities," Warren, D-Mass., tweeted on Friday. "The weapons they sell are killing their own customers and employees. No profit is worth those lives. Do the right thing-stop selling guns."

Sanders of Vermont, who recently traveled to Walmart's annual shareholder meeting to speak on behalf of workers, doubled down Friday on that message. "Walmart should respect the voices of its workers who are calling on the company to stop selling guns," he said on Twitter.

Two other candidates, former housing secretary Julian Castro and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., also called for Walmart to go further.

"Video games don't cause mass shootings," Castro wrote on Twitter. "Guns do. Maybe take those off the shelf, Walmart?"

Booker said Walmart should "raise the standard for gun ownership in this country" by getting out of the firearms business.

Authorities believe Patrick Crusius, 21, wrote a rambling, racially charged screed that railed against illegal 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 Hispanic 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 attorney for Crusius' family, told The Associated Press in an email that the family members never heard Crusius express the kind of racially offensive and anti-immigrant views that he allegedly posted online.

Information for this article was contributed by Michelle Chapman of The Associated Press; by Jonnelle Marte and Abha Bhattarai of The Washington Post; and by Matthew Boyle of Bloomberg News.

Business on 08/10/2019

Print Headline: Walmart unplugs violent images

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