Gun control advocates, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, are using the hashtag #offtarget to fight back against open-carry advocates in Texas and elsewhere who are bringing weapons in plain view into retail stores like Target.
"I think many people in the gun control community are realizing that fighting in the legislature hasn't been that successful for them, but they might have more success fighting in the world of the marketplace," said Adam Winkler, professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Winkler, author of "Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America," spoke to The Daily Circuit's Tom Weber about the latest cultural battle over the right to carry guns in stores and restaurants.
According to Winkler, the battle isn't over legalizing the open carrying of firearms, which is already permitted in most states. Rather, open-carry advocates are seeking to normalize the visible presence of guns in public places. He noted, though, that the gun-rights community does not uniformly accept the headline-grabbing tactics of the open-carry activists.
"I think there are a lot of battles in the gun rights community over this particular activity," said Winkler. "There's many gun owners who think that this is a real mistake and will set back gun rights more than gun-control advocates could do for themselves."
Winkler noted that on the other side of the debate, gun control advocates have had difficulty fighting in legislatures because their opponents are more likely to turn out to vote in favor of greater gun rights. But in the retail sector, consumers have shown a willingness to "vote with their feet" and patronize businesses that align with their stances on social and political issues.
Winkler believes that Moms Demand Action is likely to succeed in getting Target and other businesses to ban the open carrying of firearms in their establishments.
"You're going to see Target most likely respond to the moms instead of the gun owners, in part because we know from the studies and the data that women spend a lot more money in retail establishments than men do," said Winkler. "And the open-carry advocates remain a minority, even within the gun community."