NRA Tells Gun Owners They Went Too Far, For a Change

A letter from the NRA tells “open carry” enthusiasts to tone it down

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Believing that a large gun presence deters crime and makes Texas safer, almost forty long gun rights activists, slinging long guns over their shoulders and backs, joined in a walking rally calling for less restrictive open carry gun legislation. Arlington, 2013.  Richard Michael Knittle Sr./Demotix/Corbis

The National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, has sparked a rare bout of public infighting within the pro-gun movement. In a letter, the ILA called the actions of some gun enthusiasts “weird” and “scary.”

The letter was roughly directed at the members of a Texas organization called Open Carry Texas, a group whose members have taken to coming armed with powerful—and visibly displayed—semi-automatic weapons to restaurants and tourist destinations. Carrying an openly displayed long gun is perfectly legal in Texas, says San Antonio Express-News, but the NRA-ILA still doesn't think it's a good idea. The organization writes that the displays might actually hurt the acceptance of gun culture:

“[W]hile 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.”

In response to Open Carry Texas' members and others' similar displays, says the San Antonio Express-News, a number of restaurant chains have asked people to no longer bring their guns into their stores.

Open Carry Texas' goal, says Al Jazeera, is to push for Texas to legalize the open carry of hand guns. That's currently illegal, even in the gun-friendly state.

The legality of such visible gun displays itself, however, is a bit of a grey area. The Assocaited Press:

Long guns like rifles can be carried openly but must be done so in a way that does not cause alarm. But gun holders can be charged with disorderly conduct if anyone around them feels threatened.

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