The nation’s largest gun-rights group is taking some Texans to task over their headline-generating demonstrations advocating the legal, open carrying of weapons.
Officials with the National Rifle Association say recent rallies at fast-food restaurants and home improvement stores are “downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself.”
While the group applauds Texas for a “robust gun culture,” leaders of the group in a statement chastise “a small number [who] have recently crossed the line from enthusiasm to downright foolishness.”
This comes as some Republicans heading toward the state GOP convention in Fort Worth later this week plan to carry long guns outside the Fort Worth Convention Center.
The question of whether guns can be carried into the center during the three-day convention has been a concern because the facility holds a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission license.
Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri released a new statement, letting party members know that “anyone carrying an openly exposed weapon will be asked to do so outside of the building.”
Concealed handgun license holders and peace officers may carry their concealed handguns inside during the convention.
And gun supporters are encouraging delegates, alternates and guests to carry black powder guns inside.
“TABC explicitly exempts certain black powder guns since they are not considered firearms per TX State law,” according to a statement posted on Facebook. “Several of us will be carrying exempt black powder pistols as we educate people about the [lack of] ability to legally open carry. We can use more help.”
The NRA two-page statement comes in the wake of several local demonstrations, the most recent being at a Home Depot parking lot in North Richland Hills.
Organizers have said around 150 people showed up at the event geared to promote the desire of Texans to openly carry their handguns. Donations were accepted; black powder revolvers and ammunition were among raffle prizes given out.
North Richland Hills police say they are now investigating the raffle from the event.
“There are concerns that the manner in which it was held may be in violation of state gambling statutes,” said Keith Bauman, public information officer with the North Richland Hills Police Department. “At this time, we are not going into the details of the specifics of the investigation.”
Kory Watkins, a coordinator with Open Carry Tarrant County, could not be reached Monday afternoon.
Open Carry Tarrant County also made national headlines after a misunderstanding at a Jack in the Box in Fort Worth prompted a 911 call expressing concerns about a group of men walking around with long-barreled guns.
Another demonstration at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Dallas gained attention when managers asked customers to “not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.”
Officials with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission have reminded Texans that long guns aren’t allowed in businesses that sell alcoholic drinks. The business could lose its permit to sell drinks, and any person in violation could face criminal-trespassing charges.
Open carry has become a hot political issue as candidates in races including governor and lieutenant governor have indicated that a change in the law will be on the table during the next legislative session.
As a result of the national attention, some leaders in the open-carry movement recently sent out a letter calling on supporters to curb efforts to carry long guns into Texas businesses.
“We ask that members take a step back and make an objective assessment of what we are trying to accomplish and help us get open carry passed for everyone,” according to the letter, jointly sent by Come and Take It Texas, Texas Carry, Gun Rights Across America and Open Carry Texas.
“We must be willing and able to recognize what works and what doesn’t, but we need your help to make these efforts a success.”
Texas GOP gathers
Up to 11,000 delegates and alternates could arrive in Fort Worth for the convention — the country’s largest political gathering — which runs Thursday through Saturday.
Volunteers have said they are planning an open-carry walk outside the convention center at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Supporters hope to add a plank to the party platform that calls on state lawmakers to legalize open carry or “constitutional carry,” which would let gun owners carry their weapons without license or regulation.
“All delegates, I urge you to open-carry the whole time,” Watkins has posted on Facebook.
There were some concerns Monday, as some Republicans carrying pre-1899 black powder pistols, which are not included in the state’s definition of firearms, went into the Fort Worth Convention Center for early convention committee meetings.
After some officials, including sergeants at arms, had private discussions, those wearing the pistols strapped to their waists were allowed to stay.
NRA officials, in their statement, pointed out that “we love AR-15s and AKs as much as anybody, and we know that these sorts of semi-automatic carbines are among the most popular, fastest selling firearms in America today.”
However, they said, 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.”
Since the demonstrations have begun, several fast food outlets have asked that customers not bring long guns into their businesses.
NRA officials say these protests are “just not neighborly, which is out of character for the big-hearted residents of Texas.
“Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners,” according to the statement. “That’s not the Texas way. And that’s certainly not the NRA way.”