A popular Dallas restaurant received threats of shootings after the National Rifle Association tweeted for its supporters to "steer clear" of the eatery because it put a message advocating gun regulation on its receipts during an NRA convention.
"We’ve had people calling and say they’re going to shoot the place up, one that implied he would be burning us down today. Ridiculous people," Joe Groves, owner of Ellen's restaurant, told BuzzFeed News.
The NRA convention is currently being held in Dallas, bringing thousands of its members to town.
In light of the Parkland school shooting and the 2016 Dallas police shootings, which happened just a few blocks away, Groves said he wanted to use the opportunity of the nearby NRA convention to encourage a conversation about sensible gun regulation. So, he placed a message on the bottom of his restaurant receipts on Friday that read:
A portion of this week’s proceeds will be donated to organizations dedicated to implementing reasonable and effective gun regulations.
"'Reasonable and effective' in my naive world is a fairly benign and centrist view," said Groves.
A few hours later, a customer mentioned to Groves that the words might be misconstrued, so Groves said he adjusted it by adding, "That protect citizen’s 2nd Amendment rights and also help reduce needless gun violence."
It was then brought to his attention that the NRA had tweeted to its 664,000 followers a photo of the original receipt message from that morning, telling them to "steer clear of Ellen's in downtown Dallas!"
"Nothing we’ve said indicated we wanted to limit Second Amendment rights, but that’s the way it’s being portrayed. They're so touchy about that, any conversation is trying to take away their guns. It's the opposite of that," Groves told BuzzFeed News.
He also said that while he's not a personal supporter of the NRA, he also doesn't lobby against them and is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.
However, the NRA's tweet quickly impacted the business. The restaurant received hundreds of angry messages on their Twitter and Facebook. Around 50 one-star reviews have also been left on Ellen's Yelp page in the last day.
The restaurant posted a statement on Facebook on Friday about the incident, explaining that they want to find "common ground and compromise in the fight to eliminate needless gun violence."
Groves said the outrage has been frustrating to watch.
"My view is to protect the Second Amendment but keep people from murdering children in schools," said Groves.
"Let's find a way to accomplish both. Let's have reasonable dialogue. Of course, that is taken as blasphemy. There’s no such thing as dialogue. It is an interesting lesson and to some extent demoralizing," he added.
Groves noted that after the Parkland shooting both the NRA and the president spoke about options to protect the Second Amendment and increase school safety.
"I don’t see anything different in what they said and what we said," said Groves. "But it doesn’t matter, it’s gone viral."
However, Groves said he hasn't yet seen it negatively impact restaurant sales, and that Saturday brunch was even busier than normal.
He's still deciding which organization will receive a portion of this week's takings but said it'll be a group that's politically in the middle.
"Not extreme views on either side. We need compromise," he said.