Chipotle says no to guns in its stores

A pedestrian walks past a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Beverly Hills
A pedestrian walks past a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Beverly Hills, Calif. on March 7, 2011.

Fast-food chain Chipotle is asking its customers to leave their guns at home the next time they're craving Tex-Mex. The new policy comes after participants in an “open carry” demonstration brought guns into one of Chipotle’s Texas stores.

Speaking for Chipotle in a statement to CNBC, its Communications Director Chris Arnold said military assault rifles were among the guns brought into a Dallas store over the weekend causing “anxiety and discomfort” to other customers.

The eatery is making an exception to the policy for authorized law enforcement personnel.

Chipotle says in the past it has simply complied with local laws regarding the open or concealed carry of firearms because it did not want to put its employees in the position of asking customers not to bring guns inside its stores.

Today’s announcement comes after a petition by the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. One of the group’s spokespeople is Lucia McBath, the mother of slain teenager Jordan Davis. Moms Demand Action has made similar requests of other companies. The group called Chipotle’s decision a “bold statement.”

Denver-based Chipotle now joins other companies -- including Starbucks -- who have policies asking customers not to bring guns inside stores. The Seattle-based java giant told patrons last year that guns were no longer welcome in its stores. Major chains that ban guns entirely include Costco, CVS Pharmacy, and Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Noting the volatile politics involved, Chipotle’s statement says, “We acknowledge that there are strong arguments on both sides of this issue … But this issue is not central to the operation of our business, and we do not feel that our restaurants should be used as a platform for either side of the debate.”

Mark Walters -- the nationally-syndicated host of Armed American Radio, a part of the United States Concealed Carry Association -- called Chipotle's decision a "mistake." Noting that he and his group respect the decisions of private business owners, Walters told msnbc the new policy actually "emboldens criminals and removes the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves."