National Rifle Association takes back criticism of ‘open carry’ rallies
Statement labelled advocates of taking assault rifles into public places 'weird'
The most influential pro-gun group in the US has rolled back an earlier statement criticising "open carry" rallies in Texas in which gun rights advocates bring military-style assault rifles into public places.
Chris Cox, the executive director of the National Rifle Association's lobbying arm, said the statement was "a mistake" and was written by a staffer who was expressing his personal opinion.
"The truth is, an alert went out that referred to this type of behaviour as 'weird' or somehow not normal, and that was a mistake. It shouldn't have happened," said Cox, who added that the group "unequivocally" supports open-carry laws.
The open-carry rallies in restaurants and other businesses - part of a push for less restrictive gun laws, including legalising the open carrying of handguns - have prompted public criticism, and the NRA appeared to join in last week.
The statement appeared on the website of the group's lobbying arm, saying that the demonstrations were counterproductive, scary and "downright weird".
"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," the unsigned statement said.
Open Carry Texas, one of the groups behind the recent demonstrations, had said if the NRA didn't retract the statement, Open Carry would withdraw its full support for the NRA.
Open Carry member Tov Henderson said the group's clarification was refreshing.
"Getting the clarification from them that it wasn't an official stance and that it was just a low-level employee ... it makes sense," Henderson said.
Texas has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the US, but openly carrying handguns remains illegal. Long guns like rifles can be carried openly but must not cause alarm. Gun holders can be charged with disorderly conduct if anyone around them feels threatened.
The Chipotle restaurant chain asked customers last month not to bring firearms into its stores after members of Open Carry Texas brought military-style assault rifles into one of its restaurants in the Dallas area.