At first, the violence turned public focus to the store’s sale of firearms. Now it’s digging up the store’s gun-related merchandise — some of which is being interpreted as promoting gun violence.
Since the shootings, Walmart stores around the country have battled Internet hoaxes designed to smear their brand, and threats from individuals wielding weapons. A man in Springfield, Mo., attempted to enter a Walmart while heavily armed as a “social experiment,” on Thursday, while a man in North Carolina threatened Walmart shoppers with a pellet gun on Monday.
The shirt that sparked Monday’s outcry was from a third-party vendor on the Walmart site. It shows a checklist with two items: “victim” or “gun owner,” Bloomberg News reported. There’s a check mark next to the phrase, “gun owner.”
Other retailers, including Amazon and individuals on Etsy, sell similar pro-gun apparel online. But people found Walmart’s offerings particularly offensive in light of the recent shootings in its own stores. Walmart declined to tell The Washington Post what share of the profits it receives from the shirt sales.
On Twitter, some reacted to the image with disdain, while others said they didn’t see what the problem was.
“Beyond comment,” said author Kurt Eichenwald on Twitter of the gun-owner-or-victim shirt. “@Walmart finds problems with signs for video games. But not guns. And not this.”
By Monday afternoon, the shirt had been removed from the Walmart website.
Other gun-related shirts are from third-party vendors and seem to have a variety of messages. One long-sleeve tee from Old Glory, the same vendor selling the crosshairs shirt, has an outline of the contiguous United States, full of guns with a large red slash over the top of it, and is called the “Gun Control in America Mens Long Sleeve.” Another shirt, from a vendor called J2 Sport, says “I plead the second,” with an image of firearm on the front.
But the most controversial merchandise is that appearing to condone or promote gun violence.
“We have a policy that prohibits merchandise glorifying violence,” Ravi Jariwala, a Walmart spokesman, told The Post, “and we’re continually reviewing our assortment to remove items as needed.”