Target has joined the growing list of stores asking customers to leave their guns at home. The retailer’s move this week comes after pictures circulated online of gun rights supporters bringing semiautomatic rifles into stores in North Texas and elsewhere.
What Target says
Target says it’s respectfully asking customers not to bring firearms in stores, even where it’s allowed by law. The interim CEO posted a note on a company blog this week. He wrote that bringing guns into stores creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly experience at the retail giant. Target says this move is a request – not a ban.
Target’s decision comes after an online petition that’s been gathering momentum – the group calls itself Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and about 400,000 folks signed the “gun-sense” petition.
Target mentions in its statement that there’s been a lot of recent media coverage about the open carry issue. A lot of that media attention comes after pictures posted online show gun rights supporters carrying rifles into stores. Other well-known companies have issued similar no-gun requests – they include Chipotle, Starbucks and Sonic. Chili’s, which is owned by Dallas-based Brinker International, also recently asked customers to leave the guns at home.
What do gun rights supporters say?
Open Carry Texas is part of a growing vocal movement that wants to let people openly carry handguns in Texas. Across the country, 44 other states allow open carry of handguns.
Tov Henderson, a spokesman with Open Carry Texas, says he doesn’t think the Target ban will affect his group that much. That’s because several months ago, Open Carry Texas told its members to stop bringing rifles into businesses. Henderson says some of the pictures that have circulated online of people carrying rifles are many months old. He says he doesn't want to put Target into the center of a political debate.
"One of these places we didn’t want people carrying especially was these national chains," Henderson told KERA. "For us, even though there’s nothing wrong with it, there’s nothing illegal about it, we just felt like it was distracting from the message of what we’re trying to accomplish with open-carry legislation in the state of Texas. This has been the case for months now."
"Respect private property rights"
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission says that a business that’s licensed to serve alcoholic beverages is prohibited by state law from allowing rifles or shotguns. Henderson says he doesn’t want his members – or others not affiliated with his group -- putting these companies at risk.
"I want to ask anyone who is doing open carry in defiance of a business’ wishes, I’d ask those people to respect private property rights. If a business doesn’t want you in their establishment, go to a different business. If they’re going to open-carry at an establishment that has a TABC license, they’re putting a company at jeopardy for losing their TABC license. That’s not fair."
The status of Texas' open-carry movement
Henderson says his group continues to push state legislators to legalize open carry in Texas. He says Open Carry Texas is also trying to fight back against what he calls inaccurate media coverage. Despite all of the recent attention, his group isn’t hurting. He says that Open Carry Texas membership has boomed.