NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - Orchestrated, videotaped, and primed to be provocative — demonstrations staged in restaurants by open carry advocates have become increasingly common. The events have become so commonplace that critics say customers' growing discomfort with the armed patrons in public have forced corporations to take action.
Starbucks, Wendy's, Jack in the Box, and most recently Chipotle restaurants have asked open carry supporters to leave their weapons at home.
"That they even had to say it is ridiculous," says Mindy Carter, with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The nonpartisan grassroots movement supports more restrictive gun laws.
Carter points to a recent demonstration involving armed open carry supporters at a Texas Chili's restaurant — an apparent violation of state law prohibiting the public display of weapons where alcohol is served.
"The ones that walked into the San Antonio location, you know they understood that was a bar and they walked in anyway," Carter said.
Dallas-based Brinker International, which owns and operates Chili's and several other restaurants, released the following statement –
"Given the recent attention to open carry laws, we continue to evaluate the policy to ensure we provide a safe environment for our guests and team members."
The Brinker spokesperson went on to reference the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) prohibition against long guns in businesses licensed to sell or serve alcoholic beverages.
According to the TABC, patrons that violate the restriction can be arrested for trespassing.
Given that state law already prohibits long guns in establishments that serve alcohol, Carter wishes Brinker had sent a stronger message. "I'm glad the TABC is there, but they need to come up with a policy that says no open carry in our restaurants… period."
With the controversial demonstrations now attracting widespread attention, even gun rights advocates acknowledge that the 'method' is eclipsing their second amendment message.
"We are experiencing a backlash," admits Open Carry Texas founder, C.J. Grisham, "but, completely unjustified." Grisham says the group's mission has not changed. But, they are asking members to stop carrying weapons into restaurants. Members are also being asked not to videotape their activities.
"We're trying to normalize guns in public. And if we're trying to make it normal, let's act like it's normal… no sense in posting videos saying, 'Hey! Look at me here at insert restaurant,'" says Grisham. "What we need to do is take away their ability to distract and distort what we're doing."
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