NBC Hypes 'Gun Fight' Over Open Carry 'Raging Like A Texas Prairie Fire'

On Monday's NBC Today, fill-in co-host Willie Geist posed an ominous question to viewers: "How would you feel if you saw someone walk into a store or restaurant with a rifle strapped to his or her back?" Teasing an upcoming story on the topic, he proclaimed: "It's perfectly legal in one state, sparking quite a controversy this morning, we'll explain." [Listen to the audio]

In the report that followed minutes later, correspondent Kerry Sanders announced: "...in Texas, it is legal to carry a long-barreled rifle, a shotgun, as long as you're carrying it openly....But when a group of gun enthusiasts and activists began carrying their long guns into places like restaurants and stores, it started a debate that's raging like a Texas prairie fire." The headline on screen declared: "Texas Gun Fight; 'Open Carry' Movement Sparks Controversy."

Sanders continued: "You might say it's hit Texas with a bang. People suddenly showing up at restaurants with rifles. And at stores with military-style semi-automatics. All to make the point that in Texas, this is perfectly legal....But for many, it's not the legality, it's the reality of men and women openly armed in public."

Touting division among gun rights advocates, Sanders noted: "Last month, an official of the National Rifle Association wrote on their website that the demonstrations were 'downright weird,' but after open carry groups reacted angrily, the NRA reversed itself."

On Friday, CBS This Morning similarly labeled the disagreement a "gun fight" in which the NRA had initially "condemned the activists."

Here is a full transcript of the June 9 report on Today:

7:19 AM ET TEASE:

WILLIE GEIST: And coming up in just a bit, how would you feel if you saw someone walk into a store or restaurant with a rifle strapped to his or her back? It's perfectly legal in one state, sparking quite a controversy this morning, we'll explain.

7:35 AM ET SEGMENT:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Now to something happening in Texas that really has people taking sides. Gun rights advocates demonstrating for their cause by openly carrying their weapons into crowded stores. NBC's Kerry Sanders is in Katy, Texas. Kerry, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Texas Gun Fight; "Open Carry" Movement Sparks Controversy]

KERRY SANDERS: Well, good morning, Savannah. If you are eighteen years old or older here in Texas, it is legal to carry a long-barreled rifle, a shotgun, as long as you're carrying it openly in a non-threatening way. But when a group of gun enthusiasts and activists began carrying their long guns into places like restaurants and stores, it started a debate that's raging like a Texas prairie fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Gonna to do a little open carry at Chili's, guys.

SANDERS: You might say it's hit Texas with a bang. People suddenly showing up at restaurants with rifles. And at stores with military-style semi-automatics. All to make the point that in Texas, this is perfectly legal. They also hope to persuade lawmakers here to support legislation that would allow holstered handguns to be carried openly.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: We want to make sure that gun rights is the number one issue when it comes to legislation.

SANDERS: But for many, it's not the legality, it's the reality of men and women openly armed in public.

BILL HENDERSON [TEXAS GOP CONVENTION DELEGATE]: You can't yell fire in a crowded theater because it frightens everybody, and walking into a restaurant with a loaded rifle frightens people.

SANDERS: Last month, an official of the National Rifle Association wrote on their website that the demonstrations were "downright weird," but after open carry groups reacted angrily, the NRA reversed itself.

CHRIS COX [NRA CHIEF LOBBYIST]: An alert went out that referred to this type of behavior as weird or somehow not normal. And that was a mistake.

SANDERS: But for many here, it's not about what's legal.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I'm against it because when we walk into a store, it's my constitutional right to feel safe.

SANDERS: Several stores like Sonic, Chili's, Chipotle, Jack in the Box, and Starbucks have all issued statements saying that they would request that patrons not come to their establishments carrying long guns.

Meantime, the advocacy group, the carry – open carry group, has suggested that they may begin to change their tactics and will only carry their rifles now into places where they've been invited to do so by the business. Savannah.

SANDERS: Kerry, thank you so much. Hot issue down in Texas for sure.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.