Understanding the Open Carry Texas-NRA fiasco (VIDEO)

NRA-ILA executive director

Chris W. Cox, the NRA-ILA executive director.

Chris Cox, the venerable executive director of the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association, took one on the chin yesterday, openly admitting that his department got it wrong on the Open Carry Texas movement.

“The truth is an alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as weird or somehow not normal, and that was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened,” Cox told NRA radio host Cam Edwards on Tuesday on a NRA News show.

“I’ve had a discussion with the staffer who wrote that piece and expressed his personal opinion. And 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 of self-defense. So this is a distraction, certainly the media has had a field day with it,” Cox added.

For those unfamiliar with the Open Carry Texas movement, it’s helpful to know who’s who and what’s what.

There are two Open Carry Texas philosophies or core strategies employed by two different Open Carry Texas organizations. While both organizations lawfully tote long guns during demonstrations as a way to bring awareness to the state law that prohibits the open carry of handguns and to normalize the practice of openly carrying any firearm, they go about it differently.

Put quite simply, Open Carry Texas, the founding group with several chapters throughout the Lone Star State believes in alerting local law enforcement before holding events and making conscious efforts to alleviate public concern by displaying banners and signs with the Open Carry Texas logo during rallies.

Open Carry Tarrant County, which used to fall under the Open Carry Texas umbrella, recently split with Open Carry Texas because its leadership does not believe in alerting authorities before planning demonstrations believing that they’ve done enough activism on this issue in their respective district so that it’s no longer warranted.

Open Carry Tarrant County supporter

An Open Carry Tarrant County supporter shown protesting the pending ordinance in Arlington, Texas, that would stop the group from passing out literature at busy city intersections. (Photo credit: Facebook)

Open Carry Tarrant County’s unannounced way of doing things has precipitated backlash not only from the mainstream media but also from the gun community because some argue that its tactics of showing up at local fast-food chains and restaurants announced, armed with long guns, has backfired in that thanks to the advocacy of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which has capitalized off the controversy surrounding these demonstrations, corporations like Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Sonic and Chili’s have all issued statements asking gun owners to leave their firearms at home while visiting store locations.

In short, Open Carry Tarrant County’s well-intentioned activism has been transmuted into victory after victory for former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control outfit Everytown for Gun Safety, which is comprised of Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Yet, it must be said that although Open Carry Tarrant County’s controversial approach has been sharply criticized for the fast-food chain and restaurant fallout, it has succeeded in that it’s put the spotlight on the issue. It’s got folks talking about open carry, and perhaps it’s got state lawmakers considering whether passing a law legalizing the open carry of handguns might put this whole thing to rest.

As for where the NRA fits into this whole mess, an unnamed staffer at the NRA-ILA released a statement on June 2 — allegedly, without the approval of Cox — that condemned the tactics of Open Carry Tarrant County without really distinguishing them from the more transparent and polite advocacy of Open Carry Texas making it appear as though the NRA was lumping the two organizations together and calling all forms of open carry advocacy “counterproductive.”

Open Carry Texas was quick to respond to the NRA’s statement, saying that “The NRA has refused to learn for themselves how Open Carry Texas (OCT) conducts itself other than what the liberal media and Bloomberg funded gun control extremists have falsely portrayed.”

This, of course, prompted Cox to appear on the NRA’s radio program and address the issue head-on, backtracking from and apologizing for the statement but not really clarifying whether it supports the more controversial ways in which Open Carry Tarrant County does its thing.

In the meantime, one can rest assured that gun-control advocates are loving every minute of the dysfunction and discord between these pro-gun groups. Ladd Everitt, communications director for the Coalition to Gun Violence, sent the following to Guns.com in an email:

It’s their Frankenstein moment. The NRA created this Open Carry monster and now it’s threatening to destroy them. What did they expect was going to happen after they spent four decades encouraging their supporters to “exercise their Second Amendment rights” in order to deter “tyrannical government”? The chickens are coming home to roost. There is no way out here for the NRA. By endorsing Open Carry Texas, they are endorsing a public relations nightmare that is showing millions of Americans the true face of today’s radical pro-gun movement and moving them to action. But the NRA can’t oppose Open Carry radicals because they are facing the reality of a dwindling customer base for gun industry products, and competitors like GOA and NAGR who would like nothing more than to peel off their hardcore members.

Let me add that it’s very fortunate that these Open Carry protests have not led to violence. Many of them are geared specifically at provoking conflicts with law enforcement, with Open Carry activists calling police “pigs” “mother***ers” and other profane names to their faces. Law enforcement officers in Texas and other states deserve enormous credit for responding to these provocations with nothing but restraint and professionalism. But they shouldn’t have to be subject to such abuse in the first place. Pro-gun legislators deserve condemnation for siding with anti-government radicals who make a mockery of law and order.

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