At a counter-rally to those pushing for tougher gun restrictions in Austin, Texas, a group of gun-rights advocates showed up with their firearms in tow — an increasingly common display at rallies in the Lone Star State.
Showing up at gun control rallies armed is part of a strategy by gun rights advocates to demystify the stereotype associated with those who own and carry guns, C.J. Grisham of Open Carry Texas told The Texas Tribune.
"You've got a group of people who are carrying firearms, kids and women, smiling and waving," Grisham said. "If we truly meant to hurt anybody, would we draw attention to ourselves by waving flags and smiling? If you think about it logically, the fact that someone is alarmed is unreasonable."
The group wants to see Texas allow its citizens to openly carry handguns just as they are able to carry larger firearms under current law, as long as it is done so without a "manner calculated to alarm," the law says. As of now, Texans can carry a handgun once they obtain a concealed carry permit.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America has criticized the tactic. The group's Texas branch spokeswoman, Stephanie Lundy, says it is becoming increasingly common almost every time it meets for there to be "armed gunmen in the parking lot."
"Texas moms are tougher than $3 steak," she said. "We will not be intimidated by armed anyone."
Open Carry Texas was started by Grisham in July after police asked him to turn over his assault rifle while hiking with his son.
The group has hosted or participated in over 400 demonstrations in its short life and has a armed event at least once a week.
The largest rally it has hosted was in October when the group organized the "Come and Take It San Antonio!" rally in front of the Alamo,
a move that broke the tradition of not allowing firearms at the historic location.
Open Carry members also marched through Austin during the South by Southwest conference in March.
The group believes that the Second Amendment to the Constitution means that citizens should be allowed to carry any firearm they want wherever and whenever they want.
The group is spreading its strategy to other states such as Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arkansas.
In reference to the Connecticut school shooting in December 2012, Kelly Burke, president of the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action, called the tactic "disgusting" that this would be "their response to the massacre of first-graders."
Grisham said that their goal is not "to bait police officers or to scare the community."
"We wave, we smile, we hand out fliers," he said. "If we see someone who seems really nervous, we'll talk to them."
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