Even gun enthusiasts say they're doing far more harm than good.

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Just when you thought America's gun debate couldn't get any more extreme, a Texas gun-rights group flaunted the state's "open carry" law by bringing rifles and shotguns into local stores, including Chili's, Sonic and Chipotle restaurants.

This is Texas, and not everyone is freaked out by a bunch of guys with semi-automatic rifles at lunch. But the heat-packing activists apparently unnerved enough patrons that some restaurant managers asked them to go. Some chains issued policies asking customers to leave their guns outside. Now the group says it has largely stopped carrying guns into businesses but will keep toting rifles on the street.

OPEN CARRY TEXAS: Our goal is not to scare people

What to make of all this? Several things, actually:

  • Just because you have a legal right to do something doesn't mean you should do it.
  • The sight of people wielding AR-15s while ordering burritos is the logical confluence of the "open carry" and "guns everywhere" campaigns.
  • The gun-rights movement is increasingly in the hands of its shrillest members, for whom any compromise represents betrayal.

What's the point of walking down the street, or going into Target or Home Depot, with long guns? Members of Open Carry Texas give several reasons: It's our right. We're making the places we go safer. People should get used to seeing guns around. And, as Open Carry Texas said on its Facebook page, gun-control supporters have turned America "into a nation of cowards and wussies that shudder at the sight of a firearm."

Well, even some of the fiercest gun advocates think it's stupid and dangerous to have people, particularly people not in military or police uniforms, walking around armed to the teeth. In a welcome outbreak of rationality, the NRA's lobbying arm initially called the demonstrations "weird" and "downright scary."

Alas, such sanity was too good to last. Under enraged attack from the open-carry crowd, the NRA backed down and apologized for calling the activists weird. It reaffirmed its 100% commitment to the open carry of firearms anywhere gun owners could legally do it.

Now that the NRA has been so publicly intimidated, don't expect anyone in the official gun-rights movement to have the nerve to criticize this or any other extremist nonsense. The episode would be almost comic if it weren't another example of how absolutists have hijacked the gun debate. This extends not just to open-carry laws, but also to efforts to intimidate dealers who want to sell "smart guns" equipped with technology that prevents anyone but the owner from firing them.

If there's any hope for rational debate, it comes from other gun-rights supporters, whose harsh criticisms of Open Carry Texas on Facebook and other social platforms are signs that not all gun supporters think the group is right.

The critics call the group narcissistic, destructive and foolish for hurting the cause of gun rights by cluelessly scaring parents and their kids. One says simply that the group is "doing far more harm than good."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.

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