National Rifle Association Straddles Line With ‘Open Carry’ Comments

In a rebuke of recent tactics by "open carry" advocates, the NRA warned owners of long guns against "counterproductive" demonstrations at public businesses, such as those in Texas that have led some corporations to openly discourage customers from bringing guns into stores and restaurants.

Update: Since this story was posted on Tuesday, a top NRA official disavowed the comments about open-carry rules made in a blog post last week. “The truth is, an alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as `weird’ or somehow not normal, and that was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened,” Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in comments on the NRA’s YouTube channel, according to Fox News. The original version of the story is below.

The National Rifle Association last week sent a message to gun-rights supporters who have made a bit of a fuss in Texas lately: Just because you can openly tote a big gun into a restaurant doesn’t mean you should.

In recent weeks, supporters of an organization called Open Carry Texas (OCT) have shown up at stores, in coffee shops, and on public streets with rifles and shotguns slung over their shoulders in plain view. Texas law allows long guns to be carried openly in public. According to the group, the demonstrations are intended to help people feel more comfortable around law-abiding citizens with guns and to encourage the extension of the state’s open-carry law  to include handguns. But the actions were having the opposite of the intended effect, leading two major fast-food chains—Jack in the Box and Chipotle—to strongly discourage customers from carrying guns into their stores. (Two others—Chili’s and Sonic Drive-In—drew similar attention, and petitions, about a week ago.)

“Let’s Not Mince Words”

Last week, the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), called for an end to the demonstrations, calling them “counterproductive” and saying they showed a “lack of consideration” for the wider community.

“Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself,” NRA-ILA wrote in a post on its website. “To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary. It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.”

The Reaction

The NRA statement drew praise from traditional opponents. Mark Follman of the progressive political publication Mother Jones, who had posted video of open-carry demonstrations at Chili’s and Sonic Drive-In the week before, called the blog post an “extraordinary move” and noted the additional political pressure the NRA, as well as the Texas State Rifle Association, was facing over the public displays.

And the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America told Fox 4 News that NRA’s comments showed that the Open Carry demonstrations are “senseless and disturbing to Texas families and responsible gun owners.”

“We are gratified that the NRA is supporting our agenda by admitting that open-carry groups in Texas are going too far,” the group said in its statement.

Open Carry Texas argued that the public rebuke was “completely unnecessary,” as it and other gun groups had already asked members to stop carrying long guns into stores.

In a Facebook comment, the group threatened to pull its support from the NRA, adding: “The more the NRA continues to divide its members by attacking some aspects of gun rights instead of supporting all gun rights, the more support it will lose. Already, OCT members are posting pictures of themselves cutting up their life membership cards.”

An image posted on Open Carry Texas' Facebook page, protesting the NRA's stance on open-carry demonstrations. (Facebook photo)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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