Chipotle Was Right to Ban Firearms

by A. J. Delgado
Don’t force a private restaurant to become a gun-rights performance space.

This past weekend, a group of gun-rights activists, Open Carry Texas, reportedly visited a local Chipotle restaurant in Dallas, proudly sporting their firearms. Members of the group posed for photos inside and outside the restaurant, with what appear to be rifles and other large firearms, photos they then posted on social media.

On Monday, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a gun-control advocacy group funded by former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, caught wind and started a petition calling on Chipotle to prohibit guns in its restaurants for the sake of public safety, noting:

Many state gun laws are so lax that individuals with no background check or training can buy semi-automatic rifles and carry them openly, and loaded, in public. Plus, most Chipotle locations serve alcohol, setting up a potentially dangerous mix.

Up until this point, a reasonable, Second Amendment–supporting individual would likely still side with the gun-rights group . . . 

 . . . until you see the photo . . . 

 . . . and your eyebrows shoot up.

Who would feel comfortable sitting in a Chipotle, enjoying a burrito bowl (carnitas, hold the guac!), when in walks a group of guys holding assault weapons and strangely posing for photos? Would anyone feel comfortable after so many mass shootings have been burned into our memories?

Most folks would not. Even those of us supportive of gun rights understand that a small restaurant, usually populated with a significant number of children, where alcoholic beverages are sold, is not an appropriate venue in which to sport a large rifle across one’s shoulder.

It therefore came as no surprise when, in a diplomatic press release that abstained from taking sides on the gun debate, Chipotle kindly requested that patrons now refrain from carrying firearms into its restaurants, stating in part:

Recently participants from an “open carry” demonstration in Texas brought guns (including military-style assault rifles) into one of our restaurants, causing many of our customers anxiety and discomfort.  Because of this, we are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel.

Chipotle is absolutely right to do so.

And gun-rights groups such as this Dallas organization have only themselves to blame.

Some media reports have exaggerated what occurred (e.g., Time erroneously reports that the organization held a “gun rally” at the Chipotle), though Open Carry Texas founder C. J. Grisham tells Forbes that it was not a demonstration but simply a meal following an event:

“We don’t go there just to carry guns into a restaurant,” he said. “We always let the manager know we’re coming. We try very hard to make people feel comfortable.”

Grisham said his group’s policy is to send an unarmed person into a restaurant to seek permission to dine and to warn staff and customers in advance.

“We’re peaceful, we’re looking for a place to eat, but we have guns,” he said.

The truth is somewhere in the middle. While the Chipotle visit was not a gun rally in the traditional sense, Grisham’s claim that the gun-rights supporters were just looking for a place to eat does not pass the smell test, either. Posing for photos and the large size of the group indicate that this was a visit, at least partly, to make a point and not just to grab a burrito.

His statement, more important, makes it clear that Grisham and his group are aware that their presence is potentially disturbing. So why do it? What schmucks think it is a good idea for a group of adults to walk into a fast-food restaurant armed, with military-style weapons in full view?

Laws permitting the carrying of firearms are largely designed to enable the responsible gun owner to carry a handgun on his person wherever he goes. Terrific. But rather than using this right as intended, and employing common sense as to what is and isn’t appropriate, some instead feel it is fine to walk around a shopping mall or a restaurant with an AR-15.

The ban will apply not just to Open Carry Texas. A responsible gun owner who may have carried a reasonable-size weapon into a Chipotle now may not do so, at least if he or she wants to oblige the restaurant’s request. As National Review’s Charles Cooke tweeted about the incident: “They give us all a bad name. It’s impolite,” while another Twitter user agreed: “Those idiots do more damage to 2nd amendment than Bloomberg and all buddies combined.”

This isn’t the first time the Right has shot itself in the foot, no pun intended. A similar “I Have Gun, Hear Me Roar” spectacle last year ironically resulted in Starbucks’ reversing course and requesting that customers refrain from carrying firearms inside. Gun-rights activists celebrating “Starbucks Appreciation Days” (like Chipotle, Starbucks deferred to state law and allowed open-carry) showed up at Starbucks proudly displaying their firearms. In turn, the coffeehouse chain stated:

Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. 

The same has now happened with Chipotle.

What other businesses are next? Where else will the foolish few ruin it for the vast majority of sensible, modest gun owners?

Some perpetually outraged pundits and commentators have painted Chipotle as the next showdown at the O.K. Corral. It isn’t. You gotta know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.

Let this one go. Chipotle is right.

— A. J. Delgado is a conservative writer and lawyer.

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