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Group aims to promote gun rights (w/video)

By Sara Sneath
March 30, 2014 at 9:02 p.m.
Updated March 29, 2014 at 10:30 p.m.

Angel Swain, of Victoria, walks down North Navarro Street with her AR-15 rifle during a gun rights march to promote the Victoria area's new Open Carry Texas chapter, which promotes the legal carrying of certain firearms in public places. "It's more of a safety issue for me and my children," Swain said. "If someone sees me with a gun, they are less likely to harm me."

What's within the law?

• Modern handguns can only be openly carried on private property with the permission of the property owner.

•  People convicted of a felony and minors without parental consent cannot open carry a firearm.

• The law allowing the open carry of shotguns and rifles does not distinguish between loaded and unloaded firearms.

Source: Open Carry Texas

About 10 people with rifles walked down North Navarro Street on Sunday. And they weren't committing a crime.

Under Texas law, a person authorized to buy a rifle or shotgun can display that weapon publicly.

However, handguns cannot be openly displayed unless they were manufactured before 1899 and use black powder ammunition.

The demonstration Sunday was an attempt to raise awareness about the laws around openly carrying firearms, said Justin Reiley, the coordinator of the Victoria chapter of Open Carry Texas. The organization plans to continue with the demonstrations once a month, Reiley, 39, of Schroeder, said.

The statewide organization would like to see the law changed to allow handguns to be openly carried in Texas, he said.

Before the group began its walk from the Sam's Club parking lot Sunday, they were met by Kelly Cromer, 49, of Victoria.

"You don't think this is going to upset people? To make them anxious?" Cromer asked of the group's demonstration.

"It makes me feel very secure seeing law-abiding citizens carrying guns," responded Claudia Acree, 63, of Victoria, who participated in the walk.

The Second Amendment was not put in place so that "every Tom, Dick and Harry could wave around a weapon," Cromer said. "I just felt like somebody had to come here and say something."

Cromer cited studies showing correlation between having a firearm in the home and an increased rate of gun accidents, homicide, intimidation and suicide, such as a 2011 study by Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

"I don't understand how you can stand here and say you feel safer with a gun in your home. There is scientific data that proves you wrong," she said.

Reiley responded, saying his two children are educated in weapon safety, and his firearms are secured.

As the group continued down the street, they were met with approving honks and shouts of encouragement from vehicle windows.

"I support what they're doing, but honestly, it scared me before. I didn't know what it was," said Tyler People, 22, of Victoria, who was standing in front of McDonald's on Navarro as the group walked past.

Justin Swain, 39, of Victoria, carried an AR-15 on Sunday. He said he thinks people who are scared of guns likely have little experience around them.

"You shouldn't be scared of guns, but if you don't know what you're doing, you shouldn't touch them," Swain said.

When he was 22, Swain was robbed at gunpoint while working at a Subway in Corpus Christi.

It was closing time, and he was restocking chips. A guy with a mask came through the door and pointed a .45-caliber pistol at his face, he said.

"It wasn't 2 feet from me. It scared me to death," Swain said.

Since the incident, he has kept a weapon "clean and ready to go" at home, he said.

Openly carrying a firearm is a "visual deterrent" to violence, Reiley said.

"There's a saying, 'The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.' Well, I believe it," he said.

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