Along with heightened pressure to stop selling firearms after a mass shooting at a store in El Paso, Texas, the retail giant Walmart is contending with criticism over pro-gun T-shirts sold on its website by third-party vendors.
At least one shirt, from Tee’s Plus, appears to have been removed from Walmart.com after widespread condemnation on social media. The t-shirt features a list with the words “gun owner” and “victim,” with a box checked next to “gun owner.”
New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin tweeted an image of the shirt and wrote of Walmart, “You really sell this T-shirt on your website?”
Author Kurt Eichenwald also lambasted Walmart for selling the T-shirt, tweeting, “Beyond comment. @Walmart finds problems with signs for video games. But not guns. And not this.”
A Walmart spokesman said the company has “a policy that prohibits merchandise glorifying violence, and we’re continually reviewing our assortment to remove items as needed.”
While the Tee’s Plus shirt appears to have been taken from Walmart’s website, other pro-gun apparel remains available, though it’s sold by third-party vendors who are responsible for pricing and fulfillment. The retailer collects payments on behalf of the vendors and deducts a “referral fee” before turning the cash over to them.
A shirt listed on Walmart.com and offered by Old Glory reads “Gun control is being able to hit your target,” and another one says “I plead the Second” and includes an image of a firearm. A third features the quote “Gun control requires concentration and a steady hand.”
Other gun-related shirts are available on websites such as Amazon, which lists hundreds of pro-gun options that riff on issues including illegal immigration and abortion rights.
Walmart is grappling with concerns from both shoppers and workers after the El Paso shooting, which occurred when a gunman opened fire on Aug. 3, killing 22 people and injuring more than two dozen. Patrick Crusius, 21, was arrested in the attack, which came just days after a disgruntled Walmart employee in Mississippi was charged with shooting two other associates to death.
Following the El Paso shooting, a man armed with tactical weapons and ammunition showed up at a Walmart store in Missouri, but was detained by an off-duty fireman until police arrived and took him into custody.
Walmart stopped selling assault-style rifles in 2015 and doesn’t sell handguns, but the massacre in Texas led to calls for the retailer to pull out of the firearms business altogether. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company said last week it has not changed its policy, though it did raise the minimum age to purchase guns and ammunition to 21 last year after a gunman killed 17 at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Walmart last week ordered employees “to remove any violent marketing material, unplug Xbox and PlayStation consoles that show violent video games and turn off any violence depicted on screens in its electronics departments.”
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