Amidst chants of ”Read the law,” Texas Department of Public Safety officers arrested two men on October 26 for open carrying legal antique firearms at a rally in front of the State Capitol in Austin.
Under Texas law, firearms made prior to 1899 are exempt from open carry restrictions. The law prohibits open carrying of modern handguns but has no restriction for long guns. Texas code prohibits display of a “deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm.” A San Antonio ordinance restricts firearms in public parks or at political rallies: this is the issue at the root of the controversy. The gun rights group wants the restriction lifted.
“Open Carry Texas” staged an event at the Alamo back in August called “Come and Take It.” The protest sparked a furious debate when Jerry Patterson, a pro-gun Marine Veteran, former Senator, and Texas land commissioner, granted the group access to the Texas historical site. Protestors showed up armed with guns, something which broke with tradition and sparked complaints from Texans who view the site as a “family burial” spot.
Men from the open carry group were charged at a local Starbucks when they went in with their rifles back in August. It only took one woman who freaked out at the appearance of the weapons to cause a ruckus. She felt “menaced.”
Along comes the rally on Saturday at the Capitol in Austin. Two men were carrying unloaded black powder pistols from prior to 1899. The Texas troopers faced with the ever-growing anger in the crowd, take down the two men who were carrying the firearms and handcuff them.
Were they menacing? Did they display the weapons to frighten others? No.
The move agitated the crowd, who chanted “Read the law!” One man is heard attempting to get the officers to understand that the weapon is not considered a “gun” under Texas statutes. The words fell on deaf ears. The officers obviously felt that the black powder pistols were deadly weapons. By modern gun standards, and the fact that the weapons were not loaded, the guns were not a “threat.”
The Austin rally dispersed about an hour after the arrests. The men were ultimately charged with “criminal trespass.” Even though the final charges were not weapons ones, we all need to be alert to the situations around us.
This is what 2nd Amendment advocates need to be aware of: even in a state as gun friendly as Texas, gun owners can be arrested for exercising their rights. If anyone complains about us, we’re in the soup immediately, whether you’re in Texas or any of the other gun-friendly states. In states that are not gun friendly, you’re on your own. The “law” does not protect us from arrest or being charged with a crime when it’s dealing with gun rights.