SAN ANTONIO, Texas -Angela Pena brought her family to the Alamo on Saturday. She also brought her black assault rifle, a .223-caliber LWRC M4, and had it strapped across her back. Her daughter brought her M&P rifle; her son-in-law carried his .308-caliber Remington R-25; and her 8-year-old grandson, Sebastian Gonzalez, had his Ruger 10/22 rifle.
"A rifle on our back is part of our everyday life, just like a cellphone is part of our everyday life," said Pena, 48, who manages her husband's dental practice in South Texas.
Hundreds of gun owners like Pena and her family carried their firearms in the open outside the entrance to the Alamo on Saturday as part of a gun rights rally that was peaceful but loud.
For tourists, it was a startling sight: men, women and children openly carrying loaded and unloaded shotguns, hunting rifles, AR-15s and AK-47s as if they were purses or backpacks.
The carrying of rifles in public has been largely unregulated in Texas law, which allows people to walk down the street with an assault rifle, shotgun or other type of long gun. A state license is required to carry a concealed handgun.
Gun advocates in Texas have started using their right to carry rifles publicly as part of a push to expand handgun laws. They want Texas to join several states that have allowed people licensed to carry concealed firearms to wear their weapons on their hips, unconcealed, if they wish.
Rally organizers and participants said they wanted to remind San Antonio that the carrying of rifles was not only legal but normal and that the carrying of unconcealed weapons in public was no cause for alarm. But at organizers' request, most of the gun owners at the rally stuck plastic straws or strips into the chambers of their rifles to show that although there might be bullets in the clip, there were none in the chamber.
A group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held an opposing rally nearby.
San Antonio's police chief, William McManus, said his goal was to allow rally participants to exercise their constitutional rights, although his officers were on the lookout for violations of the law.