McALLEN — Nearly 70 people — many carrying assault weapons, hunting rifles and shotguns — gathered outside the McAllen Police Department on Saturday afternoon, demonstrating their open carry rights.
If you have the right to open carry a rifle, but you’re too afraid to actually do it, haven’t they passed a law without actually doing anything?
Open Carry Texas, which advocates for gun rights, organized the peaceful protest two days after police arrested Zach W. Horton, 37, of Little Elm, for carrying an assault-style weapon near the McAllen Public Safety Building. Police charged Horton with carrying a weapon where prohibited, a third-degree felony.
The 70-odd person crowd included gun owners from the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas.
“We are good, decent people,” said Feliciano Cuadra, 65, a retired teacher who taught biology and photography at Harlingen High School. “If we don’t stand up for what we believe, we don’t have it anymore.”
Cuadra stood outside the Public Safety Building, which holds the city jail, police department and municipal court, with a Colt Sporter rifle slung across his back. Around him, others carried assault-style rifles and the occasional shotgun.
Pistols were notably absent.
Generally, Texas law forbids anyone, including people with concealed handgun licenses, from openly carrying a handgun. By contrast, Texas places few restrictions on the ability to carry so-called “long guns” designed to be fired with both hands.
On Saturday, though, the demonstration was narrowly focused on Wednesday’s arrest.
Horton, the open carry advocate, visited the Public Safety Building on Wednesday afternoon and told police he wanted to take a photograph of himself holding an assault-style rifle, according to police. Officers warned Horton not to bring weapons onto the premises and he left. Horton returned later, apparently intending to photograph himself holding an assault-style rifle. Officers arrested him for trespassing and carrying a weapon where prohibited, according to the news release.
Police later dropped the trespassing charge and Horton was released on a $25,000 bond. By then, Open Carry Texas had already organized the demonstration, which drew open carry advocates from across Texas.
“All the people that carry guns are not bad guys,” said Jeff Witt, 58, of Simonton, a small town near Houston.
Witt and his son, Jeremy, left Simonton early Saturday morning for the 320-mile drive to McAllen. Both brought Saiga assault-style rifles to the demonstration.
“If you have the right to open carry a rifle, but you’re too afraid to actually do it, haven’t they passed a law without actually doing anything?” Witt said.