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NRA Says It Was A Mistake To Call Texas Open Carry Gun Protesters ‘Weird’

Chris Cox, right, appeared on an NRA program Tuesday night, saying it was a mistake for his group to criticize Texas open-carry gun supporters.

A National Rifle Association executive says it was a mistake to criticize Texas gun rights advocates who have been carrying military-style assault rifles in public places around the state.

Last week, the NRA posted an item on its blog in which it said Texas open-carry supporters who have worn rifles in public are “weird” and “downright scary.” They want to legalize open-carry handguns in Texas. The NRA criticism attracted national attention.

Chris Cox, NRA’s chief lobbyist, was interviewed on an NRA show Tuesday night.

Posting the criticism "was a mistake," he said. "It shouldn’t have happened. I’ve had a discussion with the staffer who wrote that piece and expressed his personal opinion. Our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners. Our job is to effectuate policy changes that expands and protects our members’ right to self-defense."

Cox continued: "This is a distraction. Certainly the media has had a field day with it. Ultimately, what we’re focused on is not only protecting the right of self-defense but expanding it through open carry, through concealed carry or any other lawful way."

Following Cox’s appearance, Open Carry Texas issued a statement on its Facebook page: “Open Carry Texas would like to both thank and applaud Chris Cox and the National Rifle Association for clarification on their stance of open carry. We remain confident that the NRA will aid with legislative support, to help in getting an open carry bill both drafted, and passed in the 2015 legislative session. With or without support of the NRA, our mission is unchanged: to legalize open carry of modern handguns in Texas and to continue to educate and train Texans in regard to safely carrying firearms openly.”

Open carry supporters have been showing up with rifles around Texas in rallies and at restaurants – and that’s where they’ve been attracting quite a bit of negative publicity. Groups opposed to guns say these folks are being intimidating. A couple of weeks ago, gun supporters showed up at a Chipotle in Dallas with military-style rifles. And others dined with rifles at a Chili’s in San Antonio.

Chili’s, which is owned by Dallas-based Brinker International, and Chipotle are now asking customers to keep guns out of their restaurants. Sonic Drive-In also issued a similar statement.

But in Texas, the state alcoholic beverage commission says the law makes it clear: A restaurant that’s licensed to serve alcoholic beverages can’t allow rifles or shotguns.

As part of their effort to encourage open-carry legislation, gun activists plan to appear outside the Fort Worth Convention Center with rifles later this week as the Texas Republican Convention gets underway. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports: "Open-carry supporters wanted to take their rifles, AK-47s and long guns into the convention center, but Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission rules prohibit the display of firearms at facilities that have permits to serve alcohol."

Following the NRA criticism, one of the groups leading the open-carry effort, Open Carry Texas, issued a strongly worded statement on its Facebook page: “It’s 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.”

Open Carry also said the NRA was hurting the gun rights movement and dividing its membership. Open Carry Texas was threatening to withdraw its support of the NRA. Several members were cutting up their NRA membership cards and posting those pictures online.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.