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Reaction to NRA's criticism of TX open carry group
BEAUMONT - by Lauren Huet
Gun-rights supporters who bring their long guns into restaurants are under fire from the NRA. The National Rifle Association criticized members of "Open Carry Texas" for demonstrations the NRA called "scary," "weird," "counter-productive," and "downright foolishness." It's sparked a debate across the state, including in Southeast Texas.
"I did it this morning," said Derek Poe, showing his two cut-up NRA membership cards.
He disagrees with the NRA's recent criticism of a gun rights group called "Open Carry Texas." Members recently brought long guns into Texas restaurants to raise awareness of the right to open-carry in Texas.
"I'm disgusted. Why pay money and support a group that's supposedly for my gun rights, but they turn around and do something detrimental to that and say the complete opposite?" said Poe.
Poe owns Golden Triangle Tactical, which used to be at Parkdale Mall. Last December, Poe was arrested for carrying a long gun while walking in the mall.
"When it comes to open carry, you can open carry in a manner that's not calculated to alarm," said Poe. "And if you're obviously not pointing it at anyone or doing anything stupid, then you're not doing anything alarming."
Poe moved his store after the mall banned carrying firearms, concealed or open.
Stephen "doc" Watson is an NRA Certified Instructor. He teaches "Train 2 Shoot" firearm safety classes in Beaumont.
"I would not carry a long gun into a mall or a public building if I thought that it might alarm people," said Watson.
The NRA says openly carrying a long gun in public places could be counter-productive. Watson agrees.
"The perfect example is Parkdale Mall here in Beaumont," said Watson. "As a concealed carry license holder I could carry for my personal protection inside Parkdale Mall until the episode of the open carry."
Poe says, open-carrying is a right.
"Once you start there it's no different than saying, well we have freedom of speech but you don't need to say this, or you don't need to say that and offend somebody," said Poe.
"Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's the smart thing to do at the time," said Watson.
The debate continues and some restaurants, including Starbucks, Wendy's, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Applebees, Sonic, and Chili's, are asking customers to leave their guns at home.
Open Carry Texas responded to the NRA's comments with a post on its Facebook page. The group says it will have no choice but to withdraw its full support of the NRA if the NRA doesn't retract its comments. Open Carry Texas also says it asks for permission from establishments before members bring their guns in.