More than a thousand people, many sporting rifles and other long guns, turned out at the Alamo on Saturday for a protest over local, state and federal gun restrictions, according to organizers' estimates.
The event focused mainly on a Texas law that prohibits the open carry of handguns, though it also referenced gun laws across the nation. The event was organized by Open Carry Texas, Come and Take it America and Carry Texas, according to C.J. Grisham, a spokesman for Open Carry Texas.
Current Texas law allows owners of long guns and several other types of guns to openly carry, while handgun owners must conceal their weapons.
Grisham said that while most attendees were from Texas, the rally also drew participants from as far away as Florida.
Several politicians and political candidates spoke at the event including Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a candidate for lieutenant governor; Matt McCall, a Republican candidate for Congress; and Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Kathie Glass.
Patterson focused on safety in his remarks, saying that allowing all licensed gun holders to openly carry their weapons creates a safer environment.
“The folks who seek the permit are the folks by petition that are law abiding,” Patterson said.
Patterson said mass shootings and other gun-related crimes tend to occur in areas where guns are scarce.
“They go to where they know the guns are prohibited,” Patterson said.
He urged members of the crowd to not direct any anger over current gun laws toward law enforcement officers.
“Any anger you have, focus it at the lawmakers,” Patterson said. “Those are where the violations of our liberty come from. It’s not the cop on the street.”
Grisham said the event was spurred on after San Antonio police gave three members of Open Carry Texas disorderly conduct citations roughly a month ago while displaying rifles in open sight at a Starbucks. Grisham and Roger Zuniga, a spokesman for the San Antonio Police Department, said those citations are currently pending trial.
Zuniga said the San Antonio Police Department didn’t use any additional officers for security around the event, though it did shuffle around officers in the downtown area. He said no incidents occurred surrounding the event.
McCall argued that federal restrictions on gun owner licensing are overly restrictive.
“It says if you are a veteran with any PTS in your file, it is a crime to own a firearm,” McCall said, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder. “It is the same with women who have been raped with PTS.”
Glass remarked on the federal government shutdown in her speech, saying a state focus is needed to address issues across the board including gun restriction.
“Washington is broken,” Glass said. “The two-party system is broken. We have got to chart a new course away from government.”
The rally's speeches lasted for several hours. At around 1 p.m., event organizers encouraged attendees to venture into the downtown area with their weapons displayed or march to a town hall event at a nearby park.
Murdoch Pizgatti, founder of Come and Take it America, said he thought the event was a tremendous success, as it served as an example of people peacefully gathering together and openly carrying their weapons.
“This was a public education showing that this can be done without incident, so in two years, when the Legislature is in open session, this event will be talked about when those bills are on the floor,” Pizgatti said.
He said the groups hope to spur on the legalization of open carry for all guns in the next legislative session. An event similar to Saturday's rally is being planned for Austin in the near future, he said.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/10/19/protesters-dawn-weapons-alamo-over-gun-restriction/.