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'Open Carry' Gun Laws Spark Texas Backlash

Last week, not long after a lone gunman's rampage in Santa Barbara, California, Texas witnessed an unnerving series of demonstrations.

Groups of young men, armed with tactical long rifles slung across their backs, began showing up at restaurants like Chili's and Chipotle, Sonic and Jack in the Box, to mention a few, as part of their response to another anguished gun control conversation.

The fast-food-while-heavily-armed political protests — "You want some chili fries with your AK-47?" — didn't go well. These men — in their 20's, dressed in T-shirts, jeans and camouflage and carrying assault rifles – sounded more than a bit immature in a YouTube video they made.

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Despite their wan humor in the restaurants' entryways, there is tension from the moment the eight men arrive. A nervous young manager confronts them and denies them entry as long as they're armed.

At one point, a woman customer approaches them and says, "There are children here. You're a dumbass."

Surprised, one of the young man responds weakly, "Yeah, I'm a dumbass."

It was only after the woman's back turns to him, as she angrily walks away, does he crack wise that she must be with Moms Demand Action a gun control group.

As the protestors, sans food, lugged their rifles back to their cars in the parking lot one of the young men giggles to the camera that he feels like he's being disciplined by his Mom. The whole exercise turned out to be humiliating: nothing like the powerful expression of liberty they'd had in mind.

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By posting the painfully awkward video for all to see, they left little doubt as to just how politically lost they are.

The young men had picked those North Texas restaurants because they perceived them to be gun friendly, which they were. But it's a matter of degree.

Brinker International is not going to let gun enthusiasts hump in a lot of heavy artillery and scare their Chili's customer base away — which, in the age of American mass murder, it does.

After the armed protests, Chili's and Sonic quickly issued statements that they no longer welcomed openly armed customers. Four other national chains joined them.

The city of Arlington reacted by changing municipal ordinances to make it more difficult for anyone carrying rifles to approach drivers on the road and distribute pocket sized copies of the Constitution — not only was it scaring the motoring public, it seemed an invitation to an unintended gun battle by way of misunderstanding. This is Texas after all: it's not just the guys with rifles who are packing.

The backlash has so become so potent even the NRA joined in.

"Now we love AR-15's and AK's as much as anybody," the NRA wrote in a press release before continuing on to call the "dubious" protest "weird," "downright scary" and "counterproductive."

"This not the Texas way" the May 30 missive concludes.

A few days later, though, the NRA backtracked, explaining that the criticism "was a mistake" that shouldn't have happened since the organization doesn't "criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners."

The open carry movement is fighting back, in any case, and has called on all their supporters to bring their rifles with them to the Texas Republican Party Convention at the Fort Worth Convention Center this week. Fort Worth responded by announcing citizens could walk around on the sidewalk outside the convention center with their long guns but they weren't bringing them inside where alcohol is served. Moms Demand Action weighed in, too, this week: the group is demanding that giant retailer Target create policies to stop people from carrying weapons in their stores.

The lesson seemed to be, the harder the "open carry" movement pushes, the more pushback they're going to get. Even in Texas.

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