Walmart has apologized after a photo that showed firearms being marketed as back-to-school items inside one of its stores went viral online, drawing shock and outrage on social media.
Reddit and Twitter users on Wednesday shared the photo showing a sign that read: “Own the school year like a hero.” It was positioned directly above a glass gun case that was stocked with rifles.
The company publicly apologized on Twitter for the image of the sign on the display, initially saying they removed it.
But confusion over the photo appeared to spread within the company’s management team, with Walmart first identifying a store in Indiana as the source of the photographed display. Later, they confirmed to HuffPost they are still trying to find the store.
“We are actively trying to find the correct store where this happened,” Walmart spokesman Charles Crowson said Thursday morning. “We can confirm this was not Evansville, Indiana. We have examined photographs and video inside the store.”
In an emailed statement, the store condemned the imagery, stating: “What’s seen in this photograph would never be acceptable in our stores. We regret this situation and are looking into how it could have happened.”
It’s not clear how long the sign was on the gun case. Crowson said that the company was unsure if the display was a prank or if the photo had been photoshopped to include the sign.
Many social media users thought the display appeared to make light of mass shootings in schools, which has spread throughout the U.S. in recent years.
There have been 233 school shootings in the country since 2013, according to gun control advocates Everytown for Gun Safety, which has kept track of the atrocities. That figure amounts to an average of nearly one shooting per week, the organization points out.