The group is attempting to pressure the grocery store chain to ban the open carry of firearms in all of its stores via the circulation of an online petition and social media posts.
In the past, MDA has claimed to have successfully persuaded Starbucks, Chili’s, Target, and Chipotle to ban guns, but all each of those companies did was announce that “guns are not welcome” in their stores.
In response to the group’s request, Kroger’s company spokesman Keith Dailey said the grocery chain had no plans to change existing policy. He said they will continue to abide state and local laws:
“Millions of customers are present in our busy grocery stores every day and we don’t want to put our associates in a position of having to confront a customer who is legally carrying a gun. We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue and we trust them to be responsible in our stores.”
MDA launched their national Kroger campaign yesterday. They are calling upon company officials to “prohibit the open carry of guns in its supermarkets in response to incidences of gun violence in and around stores, as well as open carry demonstrations organized by gun extremist groups that brought gunmen with loaded assault weapons into stores.”
Let’s break down the claims and requests made by the group in their petition.
1st claim: “Gun extremists have been demonstrating at Kroger stores across the country including in Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia to promote their agenda of intimidation.”
While is true that open carry activist groups like Open Carry Texas have demonstrated outside of businesses, their standard practice is to ask companies for permission before open carrying there, as Dean Weingarten of The Truth About Guns explains:
The narrative promoted by MDA is simple: insane yahoos brandishing assault weapons are terrifying the public in retail establishments around Texas. It simply isn’t true.
In the Chipotle case, the open carriers had asked permission from the establishment to open carry there before they entered. This was and has been standard practice for the group for a long time. The establishment was glad to have their business. No one showed any sign of being alarmed or complained to the management about the open carriers. Flyers were passed out promoting open carry legislation.
MDA claims that these so-called “gun extremists” are demonstrating to “promote their agenda of intimidation.”
Funny, because Open Carry Texas clearly states the group’s mission on its website, and the word “intimidation” is nowhere to be seen:
Open Carry Texas (OCT) is an organization dedicated to the safe and legal carry of firearms openly in the State of Texas in accordance with the United States and Texas Constitutions and applicable laws.
1) To educate all Texans about their right to openly carry rifles and shotguns in a safe manner.
2) To condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry them.
3) Encourage our elected officials to pass less restrictive open carry legislation.
4) Foster a cooperative relationship with local law enforcement in the furtherance of these goals with an eye towards preventing negative encounters.
In November 2013, four members of MDA met for lunch at a Texas restaurant. The group posted this picture on Twitter in an apparent attempt to prove that they were being intimidated by gun rights activists:
— Moms Demand Action (@MomsDemand) November 9, 2013
As Bob Owens of Bearing Arms notes, Watts changed the wording of a follow-up Tweet, replacing “armed men” with “gun bullies” because the pro-gun rights activists included women and children:
— Shannon (@shannonrwatts) November 10, 2013
The group’s third Tweet from that day is far more telling…
— Moms Demand Action (@MomsDemand) November 9, 2013
Yes, those smiling, liberty-loving families sure look like they are trying to intimidate those moms!
Charles C. W. Cooke of National Review pointed out that someone who claimed to be at that demonstration said MDA members found the gun-toting activists harmless enough to approach them:
One of the Moms Demanding Action asked us to post (bottom pic) she took in the parking lot. She even took a picture with my phone for me at my request. Her friends inside took the top pic while we were posing for the bottom one. LOL
Cooke spoke with Watts, who denied taking the picture of the smiling activists:
“The only one taken by us was the one where they’re in front of a car crouching down. The moms took it from inside the restaurant. The rest were taken by them and posted on social media outlets.”
Just to be sure, I sent her the picture in question, just to clarify.
“No — this was taken by their org. We took the pic that’s making it into pubs and was on our FB page. It’s a candid photo; not a group shot.”
Interesting…if someone from MDA didn’t take that picture, then how was Watts able to Tweet it? Did she get it from the open carry group somehow?
Even more perplexing is the fact that she captioned it with this:
Our Dallas Moms will not be stopped by
#GunBullies turning up at their membership mtg. Time 4 common #Gunsense now.
Does she realize the people in that photo don’t look like “bullies” who are trying to “stop” anyone?
Oh, and a page on MDA’s website is dedicated to “Kroger open carry.” The page includes photos of people carrying guns at Kroger stores, in addition to Facebook posts from open carry activists discussing their experiences. If MDA thinks that page supports their claim of “an agenda of intimidation,” I think they are quite mistaken – if anything, the photos and Facebook posts have a friendly and non-confrontational tone.
Claim #2: “In addition to numerous open carry incidents at several Kroger locations…”
There really isn’t much to say here, except “what incidents?”
Claim #3: “There have also been at least 16 shootings and threats at stores in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and other states. In June, a woman shot and killed her husband in the parking lot of a Marietta, GA Kroger before killing herself and in February, a man opened fire in a Lawrenceville, GA store and shot two people after allegedly targeting a store employee. And just last month, a woman threatened to shoot and kill an employee at a Nashville, TN location.”
Let’s take a look at those shootings to see if any of them have anything to do with Kroger’s gun policies.
First, the shooting in Georgia, from 11 Alive:
Police are investigating a double fatal shooting in the parking lot of a Kroger store on Dallas Highway early Friday evening.
According to police and witnesses, this was a domestic dispute with a woman chasing a man through the shopping plaza at 3600 Dallas Highway with a gun at about 5:35 p.m. While she was in her car, racing her engine, he was on foot.
Some very loud words were exchanged between the couple. Then, police said, she pulled a gun, firing first from her car, then getting out to finish the job.
She shot the victim several times, before turning the gun on herself.
Police later identified the couple as Bruce Strange, 52 and his wife, Paula Strange, 54, both of Kennesaw.
Does anyone really believe this incident had anything to do with Kroger’s gun policies? If Kroger banned guns from their stores, would that couple still be alive?
The second shooting MDA referenced also occurred in Georgia.
From Gwinnett Daily Post:
Leevon Young told Lawrenceville police that he opened fire at Kroger that day — wounding two strangers — because people were out to get him. An old rival, he said, had tried to kill him in New York, and the rival’s minions were certainly still trying to do the same.
At least one detective believes Young was on drugs.
Lawrenceville police Det. Wes Anderson testified during a preliminary hearing Thursday at the Gwinnett County jail, laying out what authorities believe transpired before, during and after Young allegedly fired multiple shots near the entrance of the Kroger store at 455 Grayson Highway. The Feb. 10 incident left two women wounded.
Anderson said security footage showed Young, his wife and another woman standing in the grocery store’s vestibule — the area between doors, where shopping carts are kept — for 55 minutes before the 43-year-old suspect pushed his wife away, pulled a .25-caliber handgun from his pants and began firing.
Are there any indications that this shooting would have been prevented if Kroger didn’t allow guns in their stores? And would Young have cared about a ban anyway? He doesn’t strike me as the type that would have let rules deter him.
The third shooting MDA listed occurred in Nashville, TN.
A woman is in jail after assaulting an employee working the Western Union counter inside a south Nashville Kroger store.
According to an affidavit obtained by News 2, it all started with a verbal altercation between Amy Jaudon, 43, and the Kroger employee inside the store on Murfreesboro Pike at Nashboro Boulevard.
When the employee brought out the manager, Jaudon started yelling and calling the employee vulgar names.
Jaudon then slapped the employee across the face.
The employee grabbed Jaudon and threw her to the ground.
Once separated, Jaudon threatened to kill the employee and admitted that she had a gun.
She then went outside, got a gun out of her vehicle and waved it around, threatening to kill the employee once again.
Surely, if Kroger did not allow guns in their stores, this near-tragedy would not have occurred.
MDA referred to a shooting in Ohio, but didn’t provide links or details. Maybe the group means the shooting that occurred at a Kroger in Columbus in 2013 – one that involved a shoplifter:
A man is in custody following a shooting inside a Kroger store in the 3300 block of Cleveland Avenue in Columbus.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says the incident began when someone inside the store confronted and began chasing a shoplifter.
That’s when witnesses say, that shoplifter fired his gun. (source)
At this point, I would like to stop and remind everyone that MDA made this claim:
“The history of shootings at Kroger stores underscores the risk of allowing open carry demonstrations and rallies to continue.”
Yet, the three shootings the group directly referenced did not happen at an open carry demonstration – and did not involve any open carry activists.
So why is MDA so concerned about people who exercise their Second Amendment right to legally open carry in public?
Oh, maybe this is why:
“It’s impossible for any employee to ascertain the intentions of an individual carrying an assault rifle — and given the potentially deadly outcome of mistaking a criminal for a protester, or vice versa, it is imperative that the largest supermarket retailer in the nation stands up for public safety.”
But wait…since when is it the responsibility of employees to assess risks associated with ANYONE entering their stores? In the four cases referenced here, none of the shooters used an “assault rifle” that they were openly carrying.
What is the likelihood that a person who intends to commit a crime would openly carry a long gun into a store anyway? And what about people who hide guns in their pants, like Young did? What about people like Jaudon, who ran out to her vehicle to grab her gun? And the shoplifter – would a “no guns” rule have stopped him?
Even if Kroger did decide to impose a no-guns rule for their customers, would that stop people with malicious intent from shooting up a store?
Claim #4: “In states where no background checks or training are required to buy semi-automatic rifles and carry them openly in public, businesses have a duty to protect their employees and patrons.”
Businesses have a “duty to protect their employees and patrons”? MDA didn’t elaborate on this claim, but if they are suggesting that businesses have a legal responsibility to protect people in their stores from violent crime, they may want do some research. The “duty of care” conditions that courts typically consider when determining if a business is responsible for protecting customers from criminal acts by third parties would be a place to start.
Claim #5: “Laws in a majority of states allow people to openly carry loaded rifles in public with absolutely no training, permitting, or minimum age requirement. Combined with estimates that 40 percent of gun sales occur without a background check in the U.S., this means that people in most states can legally carry loaded rifles in public without ever having passed a criminal background check.”
Going through gun laws and requirements state-by-state is beyond the scope of this article, but again, what does this have to do with Kroger’s gun policies? And again, since when do criminals obey gun laws?
Claim #6: “Open carry demonstrations at stores in certain states are also causing Kroger to violate state laws.
In Texas, a business that is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages is prohibited by state law from allowing individuals to openly carry firearms on the premises, and therefore Kroger could be jeopardizing its licenses there by failing to prevent these demonstrations.”
MDA was vague about which “state laws” Kroger might be violating, so it is not possible to discuss the first part of this claim.
However, the group missed the mark on the second part. Per Texas gun laws:
It is unlawful for a handgun license holder to carry a handgun on the premises of a business that derives 51 percent or more of its income from the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption. (source)
Is MDA suggesting that open carry activists have been boozing it up during their demonstrations at Kroger? And is the group referring to demonstrations in the store parking lots? If they are referring to open carry activists carrying guns inside the stores, well…I’m pretty sure Kroger doesn’t allow customers to guzzle alcohol while shopping. In other words: Kroger is not a business that “derives 51% or more of its income from the sale of alcohol for ON PREMISES CONSUMPTION.
Claim #7: “In May, Sonic and Brinker International, which includes Chili’s Grill & Bar, released statements prohibiting the open carry of guns in their restaurants.”
Hold on there, MDA. Words mean things. Sonic and Brinker International did not “prohibit the open carry of guns” in their restaurants – they ASKED customers not to bring them in:
Sonic Drive-In and Chili’s Grill & Bar both issued statements Friday requesting that customers keep their guns out of their restaurants even if they have an open carry permit.
The request, which stops short of an outright ban, came after members of the gun-rights group Open Carry Texas walked into Texas-area outlets of Sonic and Chili’s carrying assault rifles.
In fact, MDA’s press release about Sonic and Brinker International says the following:
A Sonic spokesperson said, “…we’re asking that customers refrain from bringing guns onto our patios or into our indoor dining areas.” A Brinker International/Chili’s Grill & Bar spokesperson said, “We recognize that the open carry of firearms in restaurants creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and is not permitted under many local liquor laws. So, we kindly ask that guests refrain from openly carrying firearms into our restaurants and we will continue to follow state and local laws on this issue.”
MDA was founded by Watts after the Sandy Hook shooting. While the organization’s desire to protect children from violence is admirable, I believe its ideas about how to bring about that change is misguided.
Criminals don’t follow laws. They don’t care about gun bans. In fact, Sandy Hook is a perfect example of how “gun-free zones” are often ideal targets for shooters. Where else is an armed thug sure to find unarmed, helpless victims?
Maybe MDA should consider that guns save lives and that imposing bans on law-abiding citizens might do more harm than good. Estimates of defensive gun use range between tens of thousands to as high as 2 million each year, according to the Cato Institute. Exact numbers are not known, likely because tracking defensive gun use doesn’t suit anyone’s agenda – and the mainstream media tends to ignore success stories.
Maybe MDA should consider the opinions of police officers – after all, they are on the front lines and deal with crime firsthand, right? In March 2013, PoliceOne.com conducted a poll to see how many law enforcement officers believe that gun bans and stricter gun control laws would reduce crime. That poll revealed the following:
The poll found that 71 percent of the officers believed that an assault weapons bans like those Obama is trying to push through Congress would have no impact on crime. Even more stark, 95 percent said that the Democrats so-called high-capacity ammunition magazine bans were pointless and another 79 percent said universal background checks were ineffective.
A whopping 91.3 percent of the responding officers said that they were for concealed carry “without further restrictions.”
As to schools, the current focus of gun legislation in a post Sandy Hook America, 76.6 percent said that school administrators and/or teachers should be armed if properly trained. (source)
Maybe they should read this letter from an 11-year-old girl who was brutally abused by her biological mother and wants her guardian, who has a concealed carry permit, to be able to carry her weapon in “gun-free zones” for protection.
Maybe MDA should consider the words of Jeffrey Miron:
“Thus the classic slogan — when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns — isn’t only a word play; it is a fundamental insight into the folly of gun prohibition. Such an approach means the bad guys are well-armed while law-abiding citizens are not.”
I can only speak for myself, but seeing people openly carry guns doesn’t make me uncomfortable. It reminds me that I live in a country that allows citizens to protect themselves and others from crime.
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