On July 2, the popular fast food chain Whataburger announced that it will be maintaining a ban on the open carry of firearms at its locations. The San Antonio-based restaurant chain first announced its policy last year, but the ban was drawn back into discussion after Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a long-awaited bill to legalize open carry in the state last month. With pressure from both gun rights and gun control groups, Whataburger President and CEO Preston Atkinson wrote an open letter to customers to reaffirm the company’s stance on open carry.
“Whataburger supports customers’ Second Amendment rights and we respect your group’s position, but we haven’t allowed the open carry of firearms in our restaurants for a long time (although we have not prohibited licensed conceal carry). It’s a business decision we made a long time ago and have stood by, and I think it’s important you know why,” Atkinson said.
“From a business standpoint, though, we have to think about how open carry impacts our 34,000+ employees and millions of customers,” Atkinson continued. “We serve customers from all walks of life at more than 780 locations, 24 hours a day, in 10 states and we’re known for a family friendly atmosphere that customers have come to expect from us. We’re the gathering spot for Little League teams, church groups and high school kids after football games.”
The Whataburger CEO went on to say that the company has received numerous complaints over open carry in the past and wished to provide an environment where everyone feels comfortable.
“For that reason, we don’t restrict licensed concealed carry but do ask customers not to open carry in our restaurants,” Atkinson added.
Whataburger is hardly the first large chain to have such a policy. In recent years, Target, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Starbucks, Sonic, and many others have also asked their customers to refrain from bringing in firearms to their store—sometimes even if they’re concealed.
What do all these policies have in common? Pressure from gun control groups such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which has claimed victory after every new policy was announced. After Atkinson’s letter was released, Moms Demand Action responded with their own press release praising the chain’s commitment to its decision.
“Last year Whataburger answered the call of moms across Texas and throughout the country who urged the company to stand up for the safety of its loyal customers and dedicated employees by prohibiting the open carry of firearms in its restaurants—and today the company is standing strong in its commitment to public safety,” said Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts. “Just like many members of Moms Demand Action, Whataburger’s president and CEO is a gun owner who supports and promotes responsible gun ownership—and he knows that support for the Second Amendment can go hand-in-hand with good business practices.”
On the other hand, gun owners made their thoughts known on Whataburger’s Facebook page, with many saying that they will no longer eat at the restaurant.
“Well, as of today, my favorite restaurant has lost my business. I believe it is shameful for an American business to contradict the Constitution. I guess my firearm and myself will find a NEW favorite restaurant,” wrote one former customer.
“Is it TRUE that you will not let me open carry in any of your restaurants? If this is so then all I can say is after 50 years of enjoying your burgers I have to go with my 2nd amendment rights and find another burger place to eat,” wrote another.
Much of the criticism seems to be from Texas residents, who will be able to practice open carry starting in 2016.