By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - Chipotle Mexican Grill will no longer allow firearms in its restaurants after gun-rights activists posed with military-style assault rifles at one of its Texas outlets, the company said on Tuesday.
The Denver-based chain said in a statement that a recent open-carry demonstration at a Dallas-area restaurant caused its customers "anxiety and discomfort," and prompted the policy change.
"Because of this, we are respectfully asking that customers not bring guns into our restaurants, unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel," company spokesman Chris Arnold said.
A gun-control group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, launched a petition drive on social media demanding that Chipotle halt the practice after photographs depicting the Texas demonstration surfaced on the Internet.
"Moms want to know that when we take our families out to eat burritos, we won't be confronted with bullets," the group's founder, Shannon Watts, said in a statement announcing the campaign. "We support the Second Amendment but we also need to feel safe and secure in the places we take our children."
Moms Demand Action was formed after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 schoolchildren and six adults.
Arnold said the policy shift was a direct result of the Texas incident, and not due to pressure by any gun-control groups.
"Historically, we felt it enough to simply comply with local laws regarding the open or concealed carrying of firearms, because we believe that it is not fair to put our team members in the uncomfortable position of asking that customers refrain from bringing guns into our restaurants," he said.
But Watts said "in states where no background checks or training are required to buy semi-automatic rifles and carry them openly in public, businesses have a duty to protect their employees and patrons."
Chipotle joins other retail stores that are implementing similar bans.
(Editing by Eric Walsh)