Texas Gun Advocates Prepare For New Alamo Showdown
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
In San Antonio on Saturday, 1,000 activists are expected to rally at the Alamo. They are gun owners gathering to protest what they say have been illegal efforts by police to restrict their right to openly carry guns. To help make the point, they will be protesting armed. Ryan Loyd, of Texas Public Radio, reports.
RYAN LOYD, BYLINE: Earlier this week in the central Texas town of Temple, C.J. Grisham was outside firing off a few rounds.
(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)
C.J. GRISHAM: So OK, so this is an AR-15. This is a - what's commonly referred to - incorrectly - as a quote, "assault rifle."
LOYD: Shooting at a barrel helps clear his mind.
(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOTS)
LOYD: He takes his gun almost everywhere because he can. In Texas, the open carry of rifles and shotguns is largely unregulated. Grisham is an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran. He says peaceful citizens like him lose their rights almost every day. In March, a police officer arrested Grisham for carrying his AR-15 while on a hike with his son.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GRISHAM: You're trying to disarm me illegally.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: I am going to disarm you.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: No, sir.
LOYD: Along with his gun, he always carries a camera. He flipped it on during his arrest to capture what he says was an abuse of power by the officer.
UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: Get your hands away from the gun.
GRISHAM: I don't have my hand near the gun.
LOYD: The video went viral. Not long after that, three people in San Antonio were cited as they sat outside a Starbucks with their guns. Now, Grisham is organizing rallies throughout the state.
GRISHAM: You know, enough's enough; and we decided we were going to draw a line in the sand. And they're either going to have to recognize our rights under Texas law, or they're going to have to arrest a thousand armed patriots.
LOYD: In San Antonio, authorities say they don't anticipate any problems at the Alamo rally, but police will be out in force. One of the group's organizers will conduct so-called chamber checks, to ensure a weapon doesn't fire accidentally. That's not enough for some people. Jamie Adams(ph) says America doesn't need more guns and certainly not 1,000 people armed at the Alamo.
JAMIE ADAMS: You know, what they're doing is nothing short of bullying.
LOYD: Adams is a regional ambassador for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America. The group formed after last year's deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Adams says the group supports the Second Amendment, but the rally's motto of "come and take it" is not only combative, she says, but an irresponsible display of gun ownership.
ADAMS: We have no way of knowing who the good guys are, and who the bad guys are. I mean, the bar is set so low in the state of Texas that we don't know that any guy with a gun - we don't know what their mental health history is, we don't know if they've had a background check.
JEFFREY PEPPERS: This is called a (speaking foreign language) - empty tomb, in Greek.
LOYD: At the Alamo this week, guide Jeffrey Peppers(ph) walks visitors around, and retells the stories like they were his own. Others take pictures in front of the shrine.
MONICA WESTHUSING: Ready? Yay. (Laughter)
LOYD: Monica Westhusing(ph) supports the right to bear arms.
WESTHUSING: I don't have a problem with it. It's legal to carry a sidearm so no problem.
LOYD: Canadian Tom Gardener(ph) feels some may be a little overwhelmed by the crowd of gun enthusiasts this weekend.
TOM GARDENER: We're exposed to guns through hunting, but if it was a mass rally and a bunch of guns, yeah - I mean, I think it would shake us up a little bit, to wonder what the hell's going on.
LOYD: Mom Jamie Adams believes that's the message the gun activists want to tell.
ADAMS: Responsible gun owners do not parade around with their guns in public places, basically threatening law enforcement.
LOYD: Gun advocates say tomorrow's rally is simply to do one thing - that in Texas, people are allowed to walk around and display long guns like rifles and shotguns.
For NPR News, I'm Ryan Loyd in San Antonio.