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Target is "respectfully" requesting that shoppers not bring guns into its stores.

The retailer posted a notice on its website Wednesday and quickly drew attention on Twitter#ontarget.

"Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so," the notice says. "But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target — even in communities where it is permitted by law.

"We've listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members," the notice says.

The "debate" continued to rage in comments posted on Target's website. Among them:

"This is just to shut up the anti gunners," commented Kory Watkins. "Going back to Target with my gun today and tomorrow and whatever days I want."

But S.K. Boss offered this: "Thank you, Target, for displaying #gunsense and promoting public safety as a civic duty."

Both comments had drawn more than 100 likes by early afternoon.

The Minneapolis-based retailer says guns in its stores are "at odds" with the family atmosphere it champions. Gun rights advocates have made headlines in recent months by openly bringing weapons into some Targets stores, a demonstration of their rights to openly carry firearms in public.

Chipotle restaurants made a similar decision in May, days after after gun rights advocates made national headlines by bringing assault-style weapons into a downtown Dallas restaurant. Chipotle said in its statement that "the display of firearms in our restaurants has now created an environment that is potentially intimidating or uncomfortable for many of our customers."

A month ago, the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America launched a petition asking Target to prevent customers from carrying firearms in its 1,700-plus stores. The petition drew nearly 400,000 signatures. The group issued a statement Wednesday applauding Target's decision.

"Moms are thankful that Target responded quickly to the call of nearly 400,000 Americans and asked customers to keep their firearms at home," Shannon Watts, the group's founder, said in the statement. "Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys.

"Like Chipotle, Starbucks, Facebook, Jack in the Box, Sonic, and Chili's, Target recognized that moms are a powerful customer base and political force — and you can respect the 2nd Amendment and the safety of customers at the same time."

C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas, told USA TODAY in an e-mail that he regrets Target's decision.

"While this is not a ban on legally possessed firearms in its stores, we will continue to honor our months long policy of not taking long arms into Target stores or any other business," Grisham said, warning that "time and time again, businesses that have asked guests not to bring legally possessed, self defense firearms into their establishments have seen their employees and customers victimized by criminals preying on the openly defenseless."

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