CINCINNATTI: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is turning to a tried-and-true formula to campaign against the open carry of firearms in Kroger stores.
Starting Monday, the grassroots organization is asking the grocer to ban open carry in stores following "incidences of gun violence in and around stores, as well as open carry demonstrations organized by gun extremist groups that brought gunmen with loaded assault weapons into stores," according to a press release.
Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, released a statement on Friday saying it would continue to abide by state and local laws and "trust [customers] to be responsible in our stores." The Kroger Family of Stores includes Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Harris Teeter, and Ralphs.
"Millions of customers are present in our busy grocery stores every day and we don't want to put our associates in a position of having to confront a customer who is legally carrying a gun," Kroger said in the statement.
"To us, the problem is that often the state and local laws are not enough to protect customers," said Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts, adding that it is the retailer’s job to take that next step.
Knowing that research shows many mothers spend a lot of time on social media, Moms Demand Action is tweeting using the hashtag #GroceriesNotGuns. The group is posting open carry images on Facebook, sometimes in meme form, with the aim of creating sharable content to drive its message.
Moms Demand Action, which has chapters in every US state, has also launched an online petition against Kroger’s policy.
Companies including Target, Starbucks, and Chipotle have also been the targets of previous Moms Demand Action campaigns.
Last September, Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz posted an open letter asking customers to refrain from bringing firearms into its stores. Earlier this year, Chipotle and Target responded with similar letters.
In the past, Moms Demand Action has held what was dubbed a "mom-cott," an effort to "impact the brand until the company does the right thing," Watts explained. For example, organizers took a day to "skip Starbucks" and brew coffee at home or purchase it from a competitor, and to shop at Costco or on Amazon instead of going to Target, she said.
A PR veteran with 15 years’ experience at companies including FleishmanHillard and WellPoint, Watts said prohibiting open carry is a "no-brainer" to her.
"It’s just not worth it to cater to a vocal extreme minority," she said.
Mike Stollenwerk, co-founder at OpenCarry.org, said the organization is "not worried" about Moms Demand Action and Kroger stores, calling an open carry ban "unlikely." The organization, founded in 2004, focuses on open carry rights of "properly holstered" handguns.
"Gun carry is a way of life in America. You just don’t see normal stores trying to make it hard to shop there," he said.