(USA TODAY) Chipotle is asking customers not to bring firearms into its restaurants after gun-rights advocates brought assault-style weapons into a downtown Dallas store during the weekend.
The Mexican fast-food company, based in Denver, said Monday evening that it has traditionally complied with local firearms laws, but that "the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers."
"Because of this, we are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel," the statement said.
Alex Clark, a member of the Dallas chapter of Open Carry Texas, tells KRLD-TV that he had attended the weekend armed lunch at a Chipotle in downtown Dallas.
"We had all different types of long-guns, some people had shot guns. I personally carry an AK-47," Clark says. "There were a few AR-15′s there. The rifles were loaded. There's no reason to carry an unloaded weapon — it wouldn't do any good."
The appeal by Chipotle, issued late Monday, followed a petition by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America that has called on companies to ban firearms in their stores as well.
The group said its petition came in response to the demonstration by the open-carry gun activists in Texas during the weekend. Their petition drive was fueled by a Twitter campaign dubbed #BurritosNotBullets.
Shannon Watts, founder of the mother's group, praised Chipotle's "bold" decision and said it "shows that you can support the Second Amendment while also taking reasonable measures to ensure that Americans are safe and secure in the places we take our children."
The statement from Chipotle communications director Chris Arnold said the company has felt in the past it was enough to simply follow local laws regarding the open or concealed carrying of firearms.
"However, because the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers, we think it is time to make this request," the statement said.
The company added:
"We acknowledge that there are strong arguments on both sides of this issue. We have seen those differing positions expressed in the wake of this event in Texas, where pro-gun customers have contacted us to applaud our support of the Second Amendment, and anti-gun customers have expressed concern over the visible display of military-style assault rifles in restaurants where families are eating. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens and we appreciate them honoring this request. And we hope that our customers who oppose the carrying of guns in public agree with us that it is the role of elected officials and the legislative process to set policy in this area, not the role of businesses like Chipotle."
Chipotle said it did not want its company to be used as a platform for either side of the debate.
Last year, Starbucks Corp. also issued a similar announcement after it had to temporarily close one store in Newtown, Conn. to avoid a demonstration by gun rights advocates.
The Seattle-based coffee company said it closed the store out of respect for the community where a gunman killed 20 school children and six staff member in 2012.