AUSTIN (KXAN) — Pushing to keep their issue at the forefront but promising to stay peaceful, gun rights activists rallied Monday at the Texas Capitol to support open carry of handguns without a license.
A similar rally by a different group two weeks ago raised tensions after a confrontation between activists and a lawmaker resulted in House members voting to make it easier to put “panic buttons” in their office to call security.
On Monday, the most notable sign of protest at the Open Carry Texas rally was the sight of gun holsters stuffed not with weapons but with bananas, rolled-up copies of the Constitution and cans of hairspray to protest restrictive gun laws.
The holster on Jason Green’s right hip carried two bananas, with “Smith” written on one of the peels and “Wesson” on the other.
“I want to call attention to the ridiculousness of the laws in Texas,” said Green who’s from Texarkana. “It’s a little silly, bananas, if you will, that I can’t carry a handgun at my side.”
Texas hasn’t allowed open carry of handguns, with or without a license, since right after the Civil War. Lawmakers are considering several open carry bills this year and most of them would require a license similar to current concealed handgun requirements.
Monday’s rally was to support the right to carry handguns without a license, also called “constitutional carry.”
Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Bedford Republican who is the House sponsor of a constitutional carry bill, said the right to bear arms “comes from God Almighty.”
“Liberty is popular in the state of Texas. It’s almost something that’s put into our souls,” Stickland said. “It certainly applies to the Second Amendment.”
About 75 activists attended the event. They also planned to visit all 181 state lawmakers.
An open carry rally by the group Come and Take It Texas on Jan. 13 grabbed headlines when activists got into a heated exchange with Democratic Rep. Poncho Nevarez of Eagle Pass, who asked them to leave his office. C.J. Grisham, founder of Open Carry Texas, urged Monday’s group to be direct but respectful.
“It put a bad taste in mouths of lawmakers about open carriers,” Grisham said of the previous incident. “I’m very worried about the prospect of getting open carry passed.”
Missing from Monday’s rally was the open display of heavy weaponry such as assault rifles and shotguns that have been prevalent at so many open carry events in recent years. Texas allows the open carry of rifles.
Texas has more than 800,000 concealed handgun license holders who are allowed to bypass metal detectors and carry their weapons inside the Capitol. But security does not allow the display of long rifles inside the gates leading to the Capitol grounds.
Many of those attending the rally said they don’t have concealed carry licenses because they believe they shouldn’t have to take a class or pay a fee to be allowed to carry a gun.
“The fear of the gun is ignorance,” said Felix Cano of San Antonio.
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