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article imageNRA blasts group for restaurant gun displays

By Ryan Hite     Jun 3, 2014 in Politics
Fort Worth - Tactics used by Open Carry Texas are being outlawed by six national restaurant chains and criticized by the original pro-gun National Rifle Association following recent demonstrations by the group's San Antonio chapter at local Chili's and Sonic chains.
This growing Second Amendment organization has gained national attention with rallies across Texas where members openly tote long guns, among other things, including semi-automatic rifles. Open Carry Texas published several videos online in which they walk into restaurants, most recently the two San Antonio establishments listed, with semi-automatic rifles strapped to their backs to test the response of management.
The NRA on Friday called the group's open carry displays in restaurants “weird,” “scary,” “counter-productive” and “downright foolishness” in a blog on the NRA's Legislative Action site. Chili's and Sonic issued statements Friday requesting that patrons not openly carry firearms in their restaurants as a response to the incidents.
“Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners,” the NRA's lobbying arm wrote. “That's not the Texas way. And that's certainly not the NRA way.”
One video shows a group of men carrying long guns into a Chili's and asking for a table but being asked to leave by a manager and also a confrontation with a female patron who said “there are children here.” A similar visit to Sonic ended with the group being asked to leave the patio area. Both videos were re-uploaded by left-leaning publication Mother Jones after they were deleted by the group. The president of the group said that the video's content could be easily mis-represented. He has also asked members to stop posting videos and walking into restaurants with guns. Open Carry Texas also responded to the NRA's criticism on its Facebook page.
“The NRA has lost its relevance and sided with #guncontrolextremists and their lapdog media,” the group's Facebook post said. “No one in NRA leadership has ever been to an (Open Carry Texas) event, but feels competent to speak out against them.”
A spokesperson for Brinker International Restaurants, which owns Chili's and Maggiano's, told the San Antonio media on Friday that the company “recognize(s) that the open carry of firearms in restaurants creates an uncomfortable atmosphere.”
“So, we kindly ask that guests refrain from openly carrying firearms into our restaurants and we will continue to follow state and local laws on this issue,” the spokesperson said.
Patrick Lenow, vice president for media relations for Sonic, issued a similar statement.
“While we historically have relied upon local laws to guide how we address the display of guns at drive-ins, recent actions required we carefully reconsider this approach,” he said. “We're asking that customers refrain from bringing guns onto our patios or into our indoor dining areas.”
Grisham said that members of his “peaceful organization” are just going out to eat after rallies with their weapons, not necessarily holding a demonstration in the restaurant.
When members of the public asked why members don't leave their guns in their car when they go to eat, Grisham responded: “Why would we go unarmed anywhere we go? The whole point of having a firearm is self-defense; why would we go somewhere” without that.
Jack in the Box, Starbucks and Chipotle have also asked patrons to keep guns out of their restaurants after similar open carry displays in Texas and petitions from advocates of stricter gun laws such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Jamie Addams, San Antonio ambassador for the group, which has gone toe-to-toe with the Second Amendment group over the displays, said she is grateful for the restaurants' new policies outlawing display of firearms.
“When I take my family, my children and my parents out to eat, we would prefer not to see guns, long rifles, AR-15's in the booth across from us while we are eating,” she said. “We are going to make decisions based on what we think is safe for our families.”
Grisham issued a request last week that members notify and receive permission from businesses before entering strapped with long guns, carry the rifles and shotguns on slings rather than holding them, and not to post pictures of displays in businesses.
“Gun control extremists are creating controversy where there isn't any,” he said after saying that these demonstrations detract from the main goals of the group.
The group is entering another phase of meeting with legislators to push for open carry in the next legislative session, he said, and there will be fewer displays at businesses.
Currently, state law only allows open carry of long guns and individuals who do so are not required to have a license. Individuals who wish to carry handguns in public must meet requirements for a concealed handgun license. Texas is one of less than 10 states that specifically block open carry of handguns.
Last year, after “the recent publicity surrounding the open carrying of rifles and shotguns,” the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission issued a press release highlighting that long guns are prohibited from TABC-licensed places.
The Texas Republican Party issued a statement on Sunday advising attendees they would not be allowed to open carry firearms at this weekend's state GOP convention in Fort Worth due to the venue's license, but that CHL holders will be allowed to carry concealed handguns.
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