First Posted: 10/18/2013
McALLEN, Texas — This is how to make another gun rally in gun-friendly Texas stand out: Tell everybody to bring their rifles and shotguns to the Alamo, the state’s most popular attraction, which sits downtown in the country’s seventh-largest city. And be sure to invite the state’s gun-friendliest politician, who also happens to hold the keys to the historic site.
When the organizers of “Come and Take It San Antonio!” made plans for a display of long guns today, the Alamo seemed like the ideal setting but the event is now drawing attention for breaking a century-long tradition against public demonstrations at the shrine of Texas liberty, where Col. William Travis and 200 Texas defenders famously died in a siege with the Mexican army in 1836. Such public displays have usually been relegated to an adjacent plaza.
Some are asking whether a pro-gun group has gone too far in extolling firearms rights, a feat considered near impossible in Texas. And whether a politician may have been too willing to accommodate them.
“We certainly consider the Alamo our family cemetery,” said Lee Spencer White, president of the Alamo Defenders’ Descendants Association. “Our guys died there and we take it very seriously.”
Inside the weathered stone mission church where the Texans made their last stand, “You instantly become reverent,” she said. “You feel the sacrifice and the emotions of those who died there. You can’t help but leave feeling moved and changed forever.”
But rally organizers say the site fits their cause, protesting a San Antonio local ordinance they say impinges on firearms rights.
“We’re doing this to show that we’re not going to back down,” said Victoria Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Open Carry Texas, one of the groups behind the event.
The gun groups organized the rally after a confrontation with San Antonio police two months ago. Police threatened to arrest several activists who were carrying their rifles outside a Starbucks.
Texas law prohibits open carrying of handguns but has no similar restriction for long guns. The Texas penal code, however, does bar 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.
“We are going to fight for our rights, and it’s not OK for police to just say whatever they want and make up the rules as they go along,” said Montgomery.
In late September, the gun rights groups got permission to use the Alamo from the Texas Land Commission.
The four-acre historical site downtown includes the small mission church, whose foundation was laid by the Spanish in 1744, other surviving buildings and artifacts including Davy Crockett’s desk. About 2.5 million people visit every year.