No Openly Gun-Toting Customers at Whataburger

Whataburger isn't getting on board with the open carry bandwagon. 

That's right, even though an open carry law was passed by the 84th Texas Legislature in May and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in June (at a shooting range, of course), open carry enthusiasts won't be able to enjoy a burger at one of Whataburger's fine 24-hour establishments while openly and obviously armed. Whataburger officials announced this week that they still won't allow people to openly carry weapons in their fast food restaurants after the new law goes into effect in January.

This is not a slap against guns, Whataburger President and CEO Preston Atkinson stated in a release explaining the company position to customers. In fact, Atkinson pointed out that he himself is a big fan of guns. (He's an avid hunter and has a concealed carry license.) He also noted that Whataburger has allowed — or at least "not prohibited" — those with licenses to carry concealed weapons to keep hidden guns on them in the restaurant. But when it comes to those who want to openly pack heat in the fast food joint locations, Atkinson says the company just can't allow it. 

He laid out his (reasonable) reasons in the statement:
"We serve customers from all walks of life at more than 780 locations, 24 hours a day, in 10 states and we’re known for a family friendly atmosphere that customers have come to expect from us. We’re the gathering spot for Little League teams, church groups and high school kids after football games.

We’ve had many customers and employees tell us they’re uncomfortable being around someone with a visible firearm who is not a member of law enforcement, and as a business, we have to listen and value that feedback in the same way we value yours. We have a responsibility to make sure everyone who walks into our restaurants feels comfortable. For that reason, we don’t restrict licensed concealed carry but do ask customers not to open carry in our restaurants."
Or to paraphrase, some people are really freaked out when they see someone walk into a restaurant flashing a gun — and think about it, whenever someone openly pulls a gun in a hamburger restaurant, they're traditionally robbing the place, a TV trope as old as, well, Whataburger, so there's some common sense there. And Atkinson and the other honchos at Whataburger don't want their unarmed employees and customers flipping out on a regular basis. On top of that basic truism, fast food restaurants are places where people of many diverse, potentially clashing faiths, classes and creeds are more likely to cross paths, so it just makes sense to try and keep guns out of the mix as much as possible. On the upside, we're pretty sure the burgers are still insanely good at 3 a.m., even if you aren't armed. 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray