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H-E-B, Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe's, Costco, Fiesta Mart and Sprouts Farmers Markets are among the retailers opting out of Texas's controversial "open carry" gun law, which went into effect on Jan. 1 and which allows licensed firearm holders to openly carry handguns.
The aforementioned retailers – which are either posting signage stating open carry is not permitted or have stated that open carry is not welcome in their establishments – said they will abide by their longstanding policy to permit concealed weapons inside their stores.
In a statement, San Antonio-based H-E-B, which has more than 350 stores throughout Texas and northern Mexico and is a major purveyor of alcoholic beverages, said its decision complies with the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission. “As a retailer of alcohol, long guns and unlicensed guns are prohibited on our property under the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission rules. H-E-B maintains the same policy we have for years: only concealed licensed handguns are allowed on our property.”
The issue was a hot topic on Twitter in recent days, fueled by the hashtag #GroceriesNotGuns from activist groups like Moms Demand Action, which are also petitioning for other retailers to follow suit with a concealed-carry policy.
While its major competitors in the Lone Star State have all posted gun-free zone notices, the nation's largest retail food chain, The Kroger Co., issued the following statement in August, when the issue began heating up:
"The safety of our customers and associates is one of our most important company values. 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. That is why 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. We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue and we trust them to be responsible in our stores."
For its part, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has not issued an official statement on its open carry policy in Texas, appearing instead to leave the open-carry decision up to individual stores.