On Monday, the Denver-based Chipotle Mexican food chain issued a statement “respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants.”
According to Chipotle communications director Chris Arnold, it was a direct response to yet another open carry demonstration in Texas last weekend. That’s when a group of pro-gun activists with military-style assault rifles slung across their chests walked in to the company’s downtown Dallas location to order burritos and sodas before settling down at a table to take Facebook selfies, weapons included of course.
Guns welcomed at — Moms Demand Action (@MomsDemand)May 17, 2014
Coincidentally, the statement comes as a $50 million Michael Bloomberg-funded gun safety coalition launched a petition on Monday, asking the restaurant for a gun ban.
The Everytown For Gun Safety coalition brought together two of the country’s most powerful gun control lobbies — Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns — to fight for gun bans through legislation, corporate bans, and social media campaigns.
The petition quickly got over 10,000 signatures. The coalition also pushed a viral twitter response via the hashtag #burritosnotbullets.
Such a rapid response surprised even the petition pushers. Everytown’s Erika Soto Lamb told VICE News, “We exceeded even our own expectations for how quickly Chipotle took action, making a statement for the first time about guns in their restaurants.”
The funny thing about both Chipotle’s statement and a similar one issued by Starbucks last September is that both corporations complain of being thrust, unwillingly, into the center of a gun control debate that has nothing to do with their company goals.
The media statement released by Chipotle seems to express some annoyance. “We do not feel that our restaurants should be used as a platform for either side of the debate,” it reads, also adding that: “It is the role of elected officials and the legislative process to set policy in this area, not the role of businesses like Chipotle.”
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Corporate resentment aside, photos of a pro-gun “open carry” demonstration inside a Dallas Chipotle circulated online over the weekend, and the company statement read that the presence of guys with assault rifles and burritos cause “anxiety and discomfort” among other customers. The company asked that gun owners leave their weapons at home, the statement said, because it doesn’t want its employees put in “the uncomfortable position” of kicking out assault rifle-toting guacamole lovers.
Chipotle did not respond to questions from VICE News about how, or whether, such a “respectful request” might be enforced.
While Everytown’s corporate campaigns have received wide media attention, its vastly more impactful domestic violence-related gun lobbying has remained under-reported. Sure, Everytown got Facebook and Instagram to ban online gun sales, and the coalition’s Jack in the Box hamburger chain petition garnered same-day success just two weeks ago after a Fort Worth open carry demo resulted in the restaurant’s employees locking themselves in a freezer out of fear.
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This year, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Louisiana advanced bills that would ban firearm permits for convicted domestic abusers. Washington State passed such a ban in this February. While the successes are partially due to the NRA backing down off an increasingly unpopular fight, Lamb says Everytown is largely responsible for moving the bills forward.
“We did everything from paying lobbyists on the ground to calling and emailing our legislators, testifying on their behalf, and writing op-eds: the whole gamut of the grassroots playbook,” Lamb said, “And a couple of these states have Republican governors — including Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana — which shows that this is not a partisan issue.”
Though the coalition, headed by corporate PR expert-turned-homemaker Shannon Watts, is dedicated to lobbying for gun control laws, it doesn’t plan on backing off chain stores any time soon. Lamb told VICE News that they don’t have another company petition in the works yet, but they plan to react as needed to future open carry demonstrations.
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“The work we’ve done so far was driven by the extremists on the other side, using these intimidation tactics like going to eat burritos with an AR-15,” said Lamb, “We will continue to do this work in places where we feel like we should be safe taking our children.”
Follow Mary Emily O’Hara on Twitter: @maryemilyohara
Photo via Flickr