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Hundreds show up at Alamo rally, toting arms

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 8:51 p.m.
Gun rights advocates gather at the Alamo in San Antonio on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, to demonstrate in support of a Texas law that permits the open carry of long arms, such as rifles and shotguns.
Gun rights advocates gather at the Alamo in San Antonio on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, to demonstrate in support of a Texas law that permits the open carry of long arms, such as rifles and shotguns.

SAN ANTONIO — Several hundred gun-rights activists armed with rifles and shotguns rallied on Saturday outside of the Alamo in a demonstration that broke a long-standing tradition of not staging such events at the enduring symbol of Texas independence.

The “Come and Take It San Antonio!” rally was intended to draw attention to a right Texans have — to carry long arms publicly as long as they don't do it in a menacing manner. Organizers thought it necessary to offer a reminder because several open-carry advocates were threatened with arrest at a Starbucks in the city two months ago. The problem remains that a local ordinance effectively limits the open carrying of firearms to police and security guards.

That ordinance was not enforced on Saturday. San Antonio police Chief William McManus mingled in the crowd that police estimated at about 300 to 400, but the larger police presence remained around the perimeter of the Alamo plaza.

“There are too many issues associated with trying to enforce every ordinance here today,” McManus said. He said his priority was that people be able to exercise their constitutional rights and that everyone remain safe. Volunteers walked through the crowd placing red plastic straws in rifle chambers, a visible assurance they were not holding a round.

Rally organizers said just holding their demonstration in front of police without incident was a victory.

Organizers had hoped that seeing a large peaceful gathering of armed citizens in the downtown of the country's seventh-largest city would be a step toward making people comfortable with the sight. There were people of all ages in the crowd, including young children. Some waved flags that read “Come and Take It,” others dressed in period costumes, but most looked like anyone else one might encounter on the street — they just happened to be carrying rifles.

Men strolling through the streets with rifles isn't an image to which Hilary Rand thinks people should have to grow accustomed.

Rand, a regional manager for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, was at a counter-demonstration about a half-mile away. Amid hula-hoops and face painting, Rand called the gun-rights rally “bullying” and said it may serve opponents' interest as well.

“If anything, they're just alerting the general public that this is something that needs to be changed,” she said. “Just because you can do something doesn't mean that it's OK and that you should.”

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