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NRA criticizes Texas 'open carry' rallies, in which advocates bring guns into businesses

HOUSTON - Companies, customers and others critical of Texas gun rights advocates who have brought military-style assault rifles into businesses as part of demonstrations supporting "open carry" gun rights now have a surprising ally: the National Rifle Association.

The advocates' actions in restaurants and other public places — part of a push for less restrictive gun laws, including legalizing the open carry of handguns — have prompted public criticism.

The NRA has long been a zealous advocate for gun owners' rights. But the group's lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, has called the demonstrations counterproductive to promoting gun rights, scary and "downright weird."

The NRA said the demonstrations have "crossed the line from enthusiasm to downright foolishness."

"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 NRA said in a statement posted on its website Friday.

The president and vice-president of Open Carry Texas, one of the groups behind the recent demonstrations, did not return emails seeking comment late Monday.

But in a statement posted on its Facebook page, Open Carry Texas criticized the NRA, saying if the group doesn't retract its comments, Open Carry will have to withdraw its full support for the NRA.

"It is unfortunate that an organization that claims to be dedicated to the preservation of gun rights would attack another organization fighting so hard for those rights in Texas," Open Carry Texas said. "The more the NRA continues to divide its members by attacking some aspects of gun rights instead of supporting all gun rights, the more support it will lose."

Texas has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, but openly carrying handguns remains illegal. Long guns like rifles can be carried openly but must be done so in a way that does not cause alarm. But gun holders can be charged with disorderly conduct if anyone around them feels threatened.

The activists' demonstrations, while peaceful, have upset some witnesses.

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.

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Follow Juan A. Lozano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/juanlozano70

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