A national mothers group that persuaded Starbucks and Chipotle to ask customers to not bring rifles into their restaurants now has Target in its sights in the latest battle over public demonstrations by groups promoting the open carrying of guns.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which advocates strong gun regulation and is partly funded by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, said Wednesday that "Gun extremists have been using Target stores to promote their agenda of intimidation.
"American moms will not shop where our children and families — including our teens who work at Target — are not safe," the group said.
While Texas, led by the group Open Carry Texas (OCT), has been the site of most recent demonstrations by open-carry groups, the moms group said other incidents have taken place at Target stores in Alabama, Ohio, North Carolina, Washington, Wisconsin and Virginia.
Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said, "Target does not sell firearms or ammunition and, as it relates to this issue, we follow all state and federal laws.'' She did not respond when asked if Target would request customers not bring guns into its stores, as the group asks.
A spokeswoman for Moms, Erika Soto Lamb, says the group was in touch with both several local Target stores and the company's corporate offices but declined to discuss the outcome.
A similar petition drive by the mothers organization prompted Chipotle, Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Sonic Brands and Dallas-based Brinker International, which own's Chili's, to call on customers not to take long guns into their restaurants.
In applauding such moves, Shannon Watts, founder of the moms group, said, "American businesses and restaurants should not wait for open-carry extremists to demonstrate in their establishments — now is the time to stand up for the safety of employees and customers."
The increasingly vociferous public relations war prompted the National Rifle Association's legislative arm to issue a statement last week criticizing Open Carry Texas' campaign, saying, "Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners.
"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," said the statement, which also addressed "smart" guns. "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."
Chris Cox, the head of the lobbying arm, backed away from the statement on Tuesday, however, calling the "weird" reference a staff member's "personal opinion." He reiterated the NRA's support for open or concealed carry and said gun owners have "a right to carry a firearm in any place they have a legal right to be."
Cox's reversal came after OCT said in its posting on Facebook Monday that the NRA's position is turning off many of its members.
"Already, OCT members are posting pictures of themselves cutting up their (NRA) life membership cards," the website said. "If they do not retract their disgusting and disrespectful comments, OCT will have no choice but to withdraw its full support of the NRA and establish relationships with other gun rights organizations that fight for ALL gun rights, instead of just paying them lip service the way the NRA appears to be doing."
"It is unfortunate that an organization that claims to be dedicated to the preservation of gun rights would attack another organization fighting so hard for those rights in Texas," OCT said Monday.
Tov Henderson, an Open Carry member, told WFAA-TV in Dallas on Tuesday that the NRA's clarification was refreshing.
"Getting the clarification from them that it wasn't an official stance and that it was just a low-level employee ... it makes sense," Henderson said.
OCT, which has branches in 40 Texas counties and in major cities, says it is dedicated to the "safe and legal carry of firearms openly" in Texas in accordance with federal and state laws.
It also stresses that it wants to "condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry them."
Texas has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, but openly carrying handguns remains illegal. Long guns such as rifles can be carried openly but must be done in a way that does not cause alarm. Gun holders can be charged with disorderly conduct if anyone around them feels threatened.
On Saturday, about 150 Open Carry supporters gathered at a Home Depot parking lot in North Richland Hills, a Fort Worth suburb, The Dallas Morning News website reported.
Corporate spokesman Stephen Holmes told the newspaper that while The Home Depot allows customers to carry legally permitted weapons into its stores, "we do not allow solicitation or organizing by third parties on our property."
The News said the demonstrators were not asked to move on Saturday, but if they returned for another rally,"we'll remind them of that policy," Holmes said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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