by Doug J. Swanson
About 150 people, many of them bearing strong opinions and semi-automatic rifles, assembled on a busy street corner Saturday to make their case for a change in Texas gun laws.
The heavily armed contingent came from the Tarrant County offshoot of Open Carry Texas, an organization that works to “condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry” guns.
Open Carry groups have staged such events across the state. C.J. Grisham of Temple, the founder of Open Carry Texas, said the “walks” are part of a public relations effort and a political push.
The goal of many in the group is the legalization of open-carry handguns in Texas. State law in general allows the open display of rifles and shotguns but not handguns.
To carry a concealed handgun requires a license.
“I’d much rather have a handgun on my hip,” said Mark Thompson, 54, of Garland. Instead, he attended Saturday’s rally with a Beretta semi-automatic rifle strapped across his back.
“We’re fundamentally changing America and changing Texas,” he said. “We’re letting people know they’re free.”
Although his weapon’s chamber was empty — all those at the rally were instructed to clear their guns’ chambers — Thompson’s gun had a loaded magazine attached. That, he said, was a matter of being prepared for any hostile activity.
“Every now and then we get some aggressive people toward us,” Thompson said. “We get so much hate, it’s incredible.”
Saturday’s event, monitored by several North Richland Hills police officers, took place without incident. It did, however, attract a few critics and protesters.
“I think they’re just a bunch of boobs,” said Jon Felt, 49, who stopped to watch. “They say they checked all these weapons. How do we know they’re empty? I don’t know who these people are.”
Glynn Wilcox of Dallas brought his wife and two sons, ages 6 and 8, to carry home-made signs. “This accomplishes nothing,” one sign said. Another said, “This sign is not a target.”
Saturday’s rally began in the parking lot of a Home Depot. Corporate spokesman Stephen Holmes said that while Home Depot allows customers to carry legally permitted weapons into its stores, “we do not allow solicitation or organizing by third parties on our property.”
The Open Carry supporters were not asked to move on Saturday. But should they return for another rally, Holmes said, “we’ll remind them of that policy.”
Some companies — Starbucks, Chipotle and Jack in the Box among them — have asked customers not to bring firearms into their establishments.
The gathering Saturday generated dozens of critical comments on Home Depot’s Facebook site.
In one typical post, a woman from Dallas wrote, “Since we can’t know when this fanatical anti-woman, death-celebrating-culture group will snap, we’ll be going to Lowe’s from now on.”
Amy Hedtke of Whitesboro wasn’t worried about anyone snapping. She brought four children and two dogs to the rally.
“I’m anti-gun-free zone,” she said. “I’m a huge supporter of the right to self-defense.” Continue reading here.