‘Moms’ group demands Harris Teeter ban openly carried guns in stores

An advocacy group staged a protest at Harris Teeter in the Myers Park neighborhood Saturday, demanding that the grocery chain stop customers from openly carrying guns in its stores.

Members of Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America chopped up their customer loyalty cards and told a store manager they would not shop at Harris Teeter unless the policy is changed.

“We’ll come back if the store is safe,” one protester said.

The group has been lobbying Cincinnati-based Kroger, which bought Harris Teeter last year, to ban openly carried guns in stores even in states such as North Carolina where “open carry” is legal. Members have recently seen success persuading well-known chains, including Target and Starbucks, to ask customers to leave firearms outside their doors.

But Harris Teeter said it won’t change its policies, which allow open carry in states where it’s legal. Harris Teeter operates about 200 stores in eight states, but most are in North Carolina.

Gun owners in the state can openly carry firearms in most public places. A permit is required to carry a concealed gun.

“We have and will continue to adhere to the firearms and concealed handgun laws as outlined by the states in which we do business,” Harris Teeter spokeswoman Danna Jones said in an email. “We believe this issue is best handled by lawmakers, not retailers.”

The company gave a similar response in November after Moms Demand Action delivered more than 72,000 petitions to Harris Teeter’s Matthews offices asking it to halt the open carry of firearms in stores.

Moms Demand Action, which pushes for tougher guns laws, was founded after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012. A gunman killed 20 children and six adults in the school.

The organization boasts members in all 50 states, including 384 in the local chapter that organized Saturday’s protest.

About 10 women, men and children held placards in the Harris Teeter parking lot, cut their customer loyalty cards in front of television cameras and carried a letter to the store manager.

They said they do not oppose the Second Amendment right to bear arms but added that some stricter controls are necessary to protect children.

“It’s not about the guns; it’s about the people,” said Christy Clark, a Huntersville mother and leader with Moms Demand Action. “Moms, kids and stores cannot tell the difference between a good guy and a bad guy.”

Kroger is the nation’s second-largest grocery chain, operating under multiple banners, including Harris Teeter.

“Our long-standing policy on this issue is to follow state and local laws and to ask customers to be respectful of others while shopping,” reads Kroger’s official policy. “We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue, and we trust them to be responsible in our stores.”