Many stores and restaurants are telling people not to bring their guns inside, but one western Colorado restaurant not only embraces the practice of packing heat, it encourages its customers to carry openly — and its waitresses do, too.
- ANALYSIS | 'Open carry,' NRA-induced paralysis, the growing paranoia around U.S. gun laws
- ANALYSIS | The 'public health crisis' that is America's gun culture
- Obama frustrated with failure to change U.S. gun culture
As she takes your order at Shooters Grill in the town of Rifle — yes, Rifle — waitress Ashlee Saenz carries a pad, pen and a loaded Ruger .357 Blackhawk revolver holstered on her leg, Old West style.
It's loaded, and she knows how to use it.
Colorado is among the states where openly carrying a gun in public is legal. The issue has made headlines after gun rights activists carrying loaded rifles gathered in Target stores in Texas, Alabama and North Carolina to demonstrate their support of "open carry" laws. On Wednesday, Target Corp. asked its customers "respectfully" to not bring firearms into stores, even where allowed by law.
But in Rifle, Saenz, her co-workers and her customers at Shooters Grill are encouraged to bring their holstered guns in the restaurant, The Glenwood Springs Post Independent reports.
State law allows local governments and businesses to prohibit guns in their buildings, but a sign on Shooters' front door reads: "Guns are welcome on premises. Please keep all weapons holstered unless need arises. In such case, judicious marksmanship is appreciated."
Customers love to 'express their rights'
Shooters also hosts training that qualifies customers for Colorado and Utah concealed weapon permits. The $75 price tag includes dinner.
Shooters owner Lauren Boebert said she's simply allowing customers and employees to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms.
"We encourage it, and the customers love that they can come here and express their rights," Boebert said.
She chose the restaurant's name last year as a nod to its gun policy.
"I consulted with my Christian friends and everyone said `Shooters' sounded like a bar or a strip joint," Lauren Boebert said with a laugh. "But I thought, this is Rifle — it was founded around guns and the Old West. We called it Shooters and started throwing guns and Jesus all over the place."
The restaurant offers American and Mexican fare, and it doesn't serve alcohol.
'We take care of our own crime problems'
Customers on a recent morning had no problem with the presence of firearms.
Wayne and Martha Greenwald, visiting from Grand Marais, Michigan, welcomed the restaurant's policy.
"We think it's just fine. We're very positive about it," Wayne Greenwald said. "We carry guns ourselves and own a rifle, shotgun and handguns. We live in a very small town and we take care of our own crime problems."
A group that supports gun restrictions told the newspaper it favours concealed carry over open carry because that requires the person to have training and meet other requirements to obtain a permit. Other Colorado laws, including universal background checks for gun sales, a 15-round limit on firearm magazines and a ban on online-only concealed-carry training, continue to be topics of intense debate.
"We stand behind the Second Amendment, but we don't encourage people to carry guns as a public display in places like stores or restaurants," said Jennifer Hope, the Colorado chapter leader for the national Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.