July 9, 2015

No open carry at Texas fast food chain

Photo Credit: Abi Skipp cc

After years of dispute, the governor of Texas signed legislation that will allow those in Texas to carry handguns openly in public. New Mexico already allows open carry, but the move in Texas brings renewed attention to the issue of openly carrying firearms.

Photo Credit: Abi Skipp cc

Photo Credit: Abi Skipp cc

The bill, which will not go into effect until next year, was signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott in June. One famous Texas-based fast food chain, however, told customers that non-concealed guns will not be permitted in stores.

The president of Whataburger, Preston Atkinson, issued a statement on the company’s website earlier this month regarding the new gun law and how it will affect customers. He wrote that while the company proudly serves the gun rights advocates, only concealed handguns will be allowed in stores.

In his open letter, Atkinson wrote:

We’ve had many customers and employees tell us they’re uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm who is not a member of law enforcement, and as a business, we have to listen and value that feedback in the same way we value yours. We have a responsibility to make sure everyone who walks into our restaurants feels comfortable. For that reason, we don’t restrict licensed concealed carry but do ask customers not to open carry in our restaurants.

Whataburger has ten locations in New Mexico.

While Texas just recently changed its laws on openly carried handguns, New Mexico has long been an open carry state. And in 2003, the New Mexico legislature passed a statewide concealed carry law, which allows those with a permit to carry a handgun that is not in plain sight.

In 2011, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez approved a change to state law regarding concealed weapons in restaurants. The change allowed concealed weapons in restaurants that served beer and wine, but not in full service bars.

Carol Wright, the chief executive officer of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, told New Mexico Political Report in an email that her group has not taken a stance on handguns in “quick service restaurants,” they do oppose concealed handguns in certain establishments.

Wright said the NMRA’s stance on concealed weapons in full service bars is:

Restaurants already have their hands full with the responsibility to know when and how much each patron has had to drink, what their intoxication level is and if their driver’s license is authentic, valid, and states their actual birth date. To be responsible for customer’s gun carrying habits puts restaurants and servers again in the difficult position of enforcing New Mexico’s laws.

Business owners in New Mexico still maintain the right to prohibit weapons in their establishments.

The Rio Grande Foundation, a free market think tank, agrees that business owners should be able to make those decisions themselves. Rio Grande Foundation President Paul Gessing told New Mexico Political Report his group generally doesn’t weigh in on second amendment rights, but supports both the rights of gun owners and business owners who may not allow guns in their establishment.

“The RGF supports Americans’ 2nd amendment rights, but also supports the right of a business like Whataburger not to allow people to carry guns in their establishments,” Gessing said.

According to an article from Newsweek, many advocates for gun restrictions have successfully lobbied other businesses to also ban firearms in their stores.

In 2013, a video of a man carrying a gun into the state capitol in Santa Fe became the object of media attention. The video has nearly 450,000 views on YouTube.

Correction: This headline originally referred to concealed carry, not open carry. We regret the error.