Guns or video games: What kind of stand do businesses dare make?

Walmart says that it's removing video game displays as a mark of respect, following the recent deadly shootings. Is there room for a little more respect for life, beginning with tech companies?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I were heading back from Santa Cruz, California.

On the way, we saw a billboard advertising the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

"I've never been," said my wife. "We should go."

As it happened, we didn't have the time. That weekend a man armed with an assault weapon gunned down several people before apparently killing himself.

In the weeks since, more horrors occurred. In El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio many people were killed and injured by young white men brandishing assault weapons.

In the days after that, our nation's most powerful politicians declared that one of the main causes was violent video games.

"We must stop the glorification of violence in society," said President Trump in a scripted speech.  "This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace."

Opponents might wonder whether the president's own inflammatory rhetoric contributes to an increasingly violent atmosphere

Former vice-president and current presidential candidate Joe Biden believes games aren't a direct cause, but video game culture is still troubling. He offered this: "It is not healthy to have these games teaching kids the dispassionate notion that you can shoot somebody and just blow their brains out."

Opponents might wonder why the Democrats have for so long failed to do anything about, say, gun control.

In the middle of all this, of course, is business. It's money that pushes guns, just as much as it pushes video games.

I found cause to pause, therefore, on hearing that Walmart has decided to take action. It's removing violent video game displays, but carrying right on contributing to the open carry world by selling guns.

As USA Today reported, Walmart explained: "We've taken this action out of respect for the incidents of the past week, and this action does not reflect a long-term change in our video game assortment."

Oddly, Walmart didn't imagine that its readiness to sell guns in a frightfully convenient way might have anything to do with the incidents of the past week.

But it's apparently violent video games -- games that are played all over the world and don't seem to drive humans to shoot each other in real life -- that are to blame.

It's true that video game creators allow assault weapon manufacturers to advertise their wares in the games. But doesn't it make rational sense that if you make it harder to buy such things, it might at least be a start?

I grew up in Europe, where those who had guns kept them locked up at the gun club. I know I'll never be able to persuade those who grew up here that buying guns in a supermarket is both abnormal and abhorrent.

I'll never be able to persuade those who grew up here that it's possible to have a society that may like violent video games, but doesn't believe everyone should have a gun.

Some tech businesses, though, are beginning to question their own roles in the proliferation of guns.

A few months ago, Salesforce changed its acceptable-use policy to exclude the use of its software for gun sales.

Now Google and Amazon are under pressure to curtail their contributions to the ease of gun purchase.

No, I don't expect anything will change. Businesses, though, seem to have had more success than government lately in affecting any societal change at all.

How much of a stand do they dare to make now?

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