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Texas gun groups clash with NRA on armed protests in public spaces

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - Texas gun rights groups that have toted rifles and shotguns in public in campaigns to show support for the open carrying of weapons blasted the NRA on Monday for calling those appeals "foolish" and "counterproductive."

Open Carry Texas, Texas Carry, Come And Take It – Texas and Gun Rights Across America accused the National Rifle Association, the nation's largest lobbying group for firearm ownership, of not supporting all gun rights and vowed to withdraw their support if the NRA did not retract the criticism.

"It is 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," the groups said in a statement.

The groups are advocating unlicensed, open carry of handguns, pointing to laws in places like Texas that allow for the unlicensed, open carrying of long guns, such as rifles.

The NRA statement, issued on their website on Friday, said tactics used by some groups "can be downright scary" to people not used to seeing others arming themselves.

"Using guns merely to draw attention to yourself in public not only defies common sense, it shows a lack of consideration and manners. That's not the Texas way. And that's certainly not the NRA way."

It added that while Texas may be second to none in gun culture in the United States, "a small number have recently crossed the line from enthusiasm to downright foolishness."

On Saturday, Open Carry Tarrant County, helped lead a campaign at a Home Depot parking lot in suburban Fort Worth attended by about 150 people with rifles, shotguns and military-style weapons.

Open Carry Tarrant County, a group seen as being among the most active in the campaigns, has parted ways with Open Carry Texas after disagreeing with the statewide group's call to members to stop carrying long guns in restaurants. 

The Tarrant County group said it wants to make people feel safe being around law-abiding citizens carrying guns.

The NRA statement comes as Sonic Drive-In and Chili's Grill & Bar issued statements last week asking that customers refrain from bringing firearms into their establishments, saying the weapons can create an uncomfortable atmosphere for other diners.

A number from national eateries, including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc, and Jack in the Box Inc, have also asked patrons to keep their firearms at home.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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