Next time you're craving a burrito, you may need to leave your firearm behind — and ironically, gun rights enthusiasts are to blame.
In a statement provided to a Dallas NBC affiliate, Chipotle now says that guns are unwelcome in the popular burrito chain: "we are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel."
The change in policy isn't exactly something the company wanted to do. But aggressively enthusiastic gun rights advocates are managing to make an already divisive issue even more polarizing, and making it harder and harder for national businesses to simply stay out of the fray.
In this specific case, the issue is that a group called Open Carry Tarrant County (that's Fort Worth and its suburbs) has been staging demonstrations at area fast food restaurants where a bunch of people march in somewhere unannounced brandishing weapons. This is legal under Texas law, but no amount of frontier tradition changes the fact that it's alarming when heavily armed men walk into your suburban chain restaurant. The larger Open Carry Texas organization has been distancing itself from its Tarrant County branch after open carry demonstrations at a Wendy's and a Jack-in-the-Box both led to calls to the police.
But while Texas law permits people to carry weapons into restaurants, it also permits business owners to ban such conduct. But given the highly politicized nature of the gun issue, national chains are generally reluctant to alienate potential customers by taking an anti-gun stance.
Starbucks has, however, adopted a formal no guns policy. And the Tarrant County group seems to be pushing Chipotle in the same direction.
On its surface, that amounts to a counterproductive defeat for the gun rights cause. But on another level it's probably useful. One big problem with being a gun rights activist in Texas is that there's no meaningful political opposition to fight. To keep people invested in the struggle, you need an issue. Marching into chain restaurants, terrifying people, provoking an anti-gun backlash, and then organizing against the backlash is a potentially promising strategy.
Meanwhile, on May 31 Open Carry Tarrant County will be staging what they're calling the greatest open carry event Tarrant County has ever seen, sponsored by the good people at CMC Triggers Corp.