NRA distances itself from statement on armed campaigns in public

DALLAS Wed Jun 4, 2014 1:59pm EDT

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DALLAS (Reuters) - The NRA has backed away from describing as "weird," "scary" and "counterproductive" the tactics of Texas gun rights groups trying to gain support for the open carrying of weapons by toting rifles and shotguns in public protests.

The National Rifle Association, the powerful U.S. gun lobby group, posted an interview on Wednesday with its chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, who said the original statement made last week was a mistake by a staffer.

"It was a poor word choice," Cox said on a NRA-hosted radio show, adding the NRA supports both open and concealed carrying of weapons.

"The truth is, an alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as weird or somehow not normal and that was a mistake. It shouldn't have happened," Cox said.

Debate has heated up about the tactics used by some groups in Texas, such as Open Carry Tarrant County, which has launched campaigns where people armed with rifles, shotguns and military-style weapons have taken their firearms to city streets, stores and restaurants.

The groups are advocating unlicensed, open carrying of handguns, pointing to laws in places like Texas that allow for the unlicensed, open carrying of long guns, such as rifles.

The NRA's Institute for Legislative Action website last Friday posted a statement that said tactics used by some groups "can be downright scary" to people not used to seeing others arming themselves.

It added that while Texas may be second to none in gun culture in the United States, "a small number have recently 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 post said.

The NRA statement last week came as Sonic Drive-In and Chili's Grill & Bar asked that customers refrain from bringing firearms into their establishments, saying the weapons can create an uncomfortable atmosphere for other diners.

The statement was still on the NRA's Facebook site Wednesday.

A number of national eateries, including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc, and Jack in the Box Inc, have also asked patrons to keep their firearms at home.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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