HOUSTON — Hundreds of armed demonstrators are planning to converge at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday to test the limits of the gun laws in one of the most gun-friendly states in the country, by openly carrying their shotguns, assault weapons and other types of rifles in public.
Organizers of the rally — a flier declares "Get your guns & Head to San Antonio" — said they were planning a peaceful event. But the demonstration, intended to both celebrate the state's gun culture and challenge it, has concerned officials. Amid a heavy police presence, more than 1,000 men and women carrying loaded rifles over their shoulders are expected to assemble at the site of the historic gunbattle in one of the busiest sections of downtown.
Gun advocates say they have a simple goal — to remind ordinary citizens and law enforcement officials that they are allowed in Texas to legally and openly carry what are known as "long guns," including shotguns and assault rifles.
The carrying of handguns is regulated in Texas: Many residents are allowed to carry a concealed pistol if they receive a state-issued permit, but they are forbidden from carrying that weapon openly and unconcealed. The carrying of rifles, however, is largely unregulated.
"A right that goes unexercised is a right that will be in jeopardy in the future," said Jerry Patterson, 66, the state land commissioner, who is set to speak at the rally, but said he would not have a rifle.
The rally has put San Antonio officials in a difficult position. A city ordinance prohibits any person other than a police or security officer from carrying a firearm within the city limits at a political rally or at other public sites and events. Patterson said that police Chief William McManus told him that the city was suspending enforcement of that ordinance for the rally Saturday.