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A Dallas diner runs afoul of the NRA — and business booms

A man holds a Sig Sauer rifle during the annual National Rifle Association convention in Dallas earlier this month. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

When the National Rifle Association came to Dallas earlier this month for its annual convention, the owner of a local diner had a dilemma: Does he profit by serving meals to all those convention-goers, even though he supports gun control? He mulled the problem and decided to do something. What he did created a national controversy.

Joe Groves, the 54-year-old owner of Ellen’s diner, says he supports the Second Amendment, but, as he wrote on his restaurant’s Facebook page ” … like the NRA, we also support finding solutions to the senseless killings that happen much too frequently. We believe those two things are completely compatible.”

He decided to print a message on the diners’ receipts promising that the restaurant would donate a portion of its proceeds during the convention to support “implementing reasonable and effective gun regulations.” The message caught the NRA’s attention and, even though Groves subsequently amended it to include “that protect citizens’ 2nd Amendment rights and also help reduce needless gun violence,” the damage was done.

[Oklahoma’s governor angers the NRA and gay rights groups — on the same day]

“This is business suicide,” Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent and NRA TV host told the Dallas Morning News. “This may work in New York, but it ain’t gonna work in Dallas. What a dumb move.”

The NRA tweeted a photo of the receipt and asked its followers to “steer clear” of the restaurant. That opened the doors to a tidal wave of reaction from people on both sides of the gun-control debate.  The restaurant’s Facebook, Twitter and Yelp pages were inundated with thousands of posts. Some people were encouraged by Grove’s “bravery.” Others looked to cause chaos at the restaurant by making fake reservations and delivery requests.

Others threatened violence. “We’ve had people calling and say they’re going to shoot the place up,” Groves told BuzzFeed News.

So, was his decision business suicide? Apparently not.

During the convention, which ran from May 4 to May 6, the restaurant was busier than usual, Groves told the Dallas Morning News, serving more than 400 customers than average and recording a 27 percent increase in sales. On Mother’s Day, Groves presented a $15,000 check to a local chapter of Moms Demand Action, a group that was formed after a gunman killed 26 children and educators in a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.

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