A handful of Texas groups that have crafted their namesakes rallying in support of the state's open-carry laws are threatening to pull their memberships from the National Rifle Association after the powerhouse's lobbying arm urged them to stop garishly brandishing assault weapons in local businesses for the sake of making a statement.
"I personally am an endowment lifetime member of the NRA and an inductee into the Golden Eagles program," C.J. Grisham, president of "Open Carry Texas," told a CBS Dallas affiliate. "And I will rip up my cards and burn my certificates on camera if they don't change their stance."
This weekend, activists herded by the pro-gun rights groups gathered with AK-47s and other semi-automatics in a Home Depot parking lot; last month, they patronized Sonic and Chili's restaurants openly toting their weapons. Texas law allows unlicensed rifles, though not handguns, to be carried on display in public.
With an eye on the reality that such radical demonstrations aren't likely to attract much support for gun rights causes or pro-firearm candidates come November's midterm elections, the NRA on Friday came out with a somewhat remarkable statement rebuking the behavior of what it categorized as an "attention-hungry few."
"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," the NRA said. "It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates."
It's "a rare sight to see someone sidled up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slug across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms," the statement went on. "It's downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself."
The dust having settled from the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Conn., which hurled the NRA into the center of one of the most personal and impassioned conversations about gun control in decades, Grisham suggested the association is abandoning its message in favor of political profit.
"What they're doing is caving into a national gun control effort to denounce us, and it's working," Grisham said. "I've encouraged them to come out and see for themselves what our rallies are like instead of listening to the media narrative at the national level, and they've refused to do so. The NRA is really talking out of ignorance."
Terry Holcomb, Sr., president of "Texas Carry," took his response a step further, suggesting an ouster of people like NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, who's largely become the face of the organization in recent years.
"We may be looking at needing new leadership in the NRA, because they are capitulating to politics," Holcomb said. "Those of us that know what the Second Amendment is for and believe in the Second Amendment, and know that it's a right, are not going to accept the NRA's position, and the NRA is going to lose members over this."
Should the NRA decline to shift its footing, Holcomb added, "we will actively try to move people from the NRA to [Gun Owners of America], or another alternative."
For its part, the GOA said its doors are open: "If you want to come to GOA, you are welcome here," said Michael Hammond, legal counsel for the organization.
"We are fighting a war of perception," Hammond continued. "And if gun owners allow themselves to be subdued by the narrative that guns are bad, guns are evil, we need to hide guns, then we are only going to see the Second Amendment suffer more."
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