This article originally appeared on VICE.
Is the NRA going soft?
If you’re a hardcore pro-gun activist in Texas who likes to show up at Jack in the Box and scare customers with your assault rifle then the answer, it seems, is yes.
For the past few months, zealous Second Amendment lovers, led mostly by the group Open Carry Texas, have been staging demonstrations at various chain restaurants, arriving en masse at places like Chipotle and Chili’s and demanding to be served while brandishing long guns.
In some towns, Open Carry Texas members have also taken to wandering around busy intersections armed with rifles and handing out tiny copies of the Constitution to passing drivers.
It’s not totally clear what these protests are intended to accomplish, but it’s safe to say that they’re not working.
Mostly they've managed to frighten fast-food workers and customers and get guns banned from eateries that had previously tolerated firearms.
Both Jack in the Box and Chipotle have now adopted no-guns-in-our-restaurants policies in response to open carry demonstrations in Texas last month.
On Friday, Chili’s and Sonic also asked customers to leave their assault at home after Open Carry Texas posted videos on YouTube of its gun-slinging members being refused service.
The videos have since been taken down, but Mother Jones has reposted copies:
Perhaps sensing a backlash, the NRA is now asking the open carry enthusiasts in Texas to please tone it down before they ruin the Second Amendment for everyone.
In a statement released Friday, the notorious pro-gun organization applauded the Lone Star State’s “robust gun culture,” but pointed out that ordering a burrito with an assault rifle slung across your chest is “just not neighborly.” The statement continued:
"Recently, demonstrators have been showing up in various public places, including coffee shops and fast food restaurants, openly toting a variety of tactical long guns. Unlicensed open carry of handguns is legal in about half the US states, and it is relatively common and uncontroversial in some places.
Yet while unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms.
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. 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. 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 surprisingly apt — and considerate — assessment for an organization that typically argues that the only way to ensure public safety — and to stop school shootings, rapes, and murders — is to arm more people with more guns. But for groups like Open Carry Texas, it’s one step away from asking gun owners to hand over their AK-47s and sign up for Obama’s national registry.
"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,” the organization elaborated in a Facebook post on Monday. “The more the NRA continues to divide its members by attacking some aspects of gun rights instead of supporting all gun rights, the more support it will lose. Already, OCT members are posting pictures of themselves cutting up their life membership cards.”
It's a sign of how absurd the national gun control debate has become that the nation's staunchest Second Amendment rights group is begging its members to be more polite.
Faced with a renewed push for gun control in the wake of the Isla Vista shooting — and reinvigorated anti-gun opponents flush with Michael Bloomberg's money, the gun lobby has clearly realized that it has to deal with its image problem.
But after years of sharp right turns toward its hardcore base, it may be too late for the NRA to rein in the monster of its own making.