Updated: July 3, 2014 at 2:45 pm
RIFLE — In a state where commercial establishments can bar concealed carry permit holders from bringing in their guns, one western Colorado restaurant not only embraces the practice of packing heat, it encourages its customers to openly carry — and its waitresses do, too.
As she takes your order at Shooter Grill in the town of Rifle — yes, Rifle — waitress Ashlee Saenz carries a pad, pen and a loaded Ruger .357 Blackhawk handgun holstered on her leg, Old West style.
It's loaded, and she knows how to use it.
Colorado is not among those states where openly carrying guns anywhere in public is legal. The issue has made headlines after gun rights activists carrying loaded rifles gathered in Target stores in Texas, Alabama and North Carolina to demonstrate their support of "open carry" laws. On Wednesday, Target asked its customers "respectfully" to not bring firearms into stores, even where allowed by law.
But in Rifle, Saenz, her co-workers and her customers at Shooters Grill are encouraged to bring their holstered guns in the restaurant, The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent reports (http://bit.ly/1nOVk8R).
A sign on the front door reads, "Guns are welcome on premises. Please keep all weapons holstered, unless the need arises. In such cases, judicious marksmanship is appreciated."
State statutes allow local governments and businesses to prohibit open carry inside buildings if a sign is posted.
Shooters also hosts concealed carry training that qualifies customers for Colorado and Utah permits. The $75 price tag includes dinner.
Shooters owner Lauren Boebert said she is simply allowing customers and employees to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms.
"We encourage it, and the customers love that they can come here and express their rights," Boebert said.
She chose the restaurant name last year as a nod to its gun policy.
"I consulted with my Christian friends and everyone said 'Shooters' sounded like a bar or a strip joint," Lauren Boebert said with a laugh. "But I thought, this is Rifle — it was founded around guns and the Old West. We called it Shooters and started throwing guns and Jesus all over the place."
The restaurant offers American and Mexican fare and does not serve alcohol.
Customers on a recent morning had no problem with the gun presence.
Wayne and Martha Greenwald, visiting from Grand Marais, Michigan, welcomed the restaurant's policy.
"We think it's just fine — we're very positive about it," Wayne Greenwald said. "We carry guns ourselves and own a rifle, shotgun and handguns. We live in a very small town and we take care of our own crime problems."
Colorado gun-control supporters told the newspaper they favor concealed carry over open carry because of the permitting requirements. Other Colorado laws, including universal background checks for gun sales, a 15-round limit on firearm magazines and banning online-only concealed-carry certification training, continue to be a focal point of intense debate here.
"We stand behind the Second Amendment, but we don't encourage people to carry guns as a public display in places like stores or restaurants," said Jennifer Hope of Golden, the Colorado chapter leader for the national Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The group was founded in 2012 after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Connecticut.