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Group pushing for open carry gun laws to host armed march in Longview

By Richard Yeakley
Aug. 26, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Following similar rallies in Fort Worth, Dallas, Temple and McAllen, a Tyler-based group pushing for open carry gun laws will host a march through downtown Longview on Saturday.

More than 125 East Texans had signed up to participate in Open Carry Tyler's march by Monday afternoon according to the event's Facebook page, but organizers said they hoped several hundred more will join the rally.

The Labor Day Open Carry Celebration walk is scheduled to begin about 10 a.m. at the Gregg County Courthouse and organizers, like Matt Thiessen, are encouraging attendees to "join us in a public exercise of our God-given right to self-defense."

"The reasoning behind this, is that especially in the most recent years, there have been a lot of threats about infringing against our Second Amendment rights," Thiessen said.

While the march is designed to promote all gun rights, Open Carry Tyler proposes legalizing the open carry of pistols.

States with open carry laws allow pistols being carried by a licensed resident to be visible.

Thiessen said Texans liked to brag about their gun rights, but forget the state was one of only a handful that do not allow the practice, requiring that carried pistols be concealed by a permitted user.

House Bill 700, authored by State Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, and co-sponsored by State Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, sought to allow the practice, but failed to make it out of the Homeland Security and Public Safety committee.

"I think people have this fear that it is going to be the wild west; I would tell you though the same was said back when concealed carry came along, and it never happened," Paddie said. "I think people will realize that that is not the case, and at the end of the day we are supporting law abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights to the fullest."

Paddie said it was important for any group of like-minded individuals to voice their beliefs in a peaceful manner, adding that he and Lavender would likely submit a similar bill next session.

Thiessen said the group's last march, held on July 4 in Tyler, had 80 registered participants but saw nearly 200 men and women turn out to participate.

He hoped the event would see more than 300 participants and raise public awareness concerning gun laws.

Thiessen said people who want to participate should meet about 9:45 a.m. on the parking lot bordered by Cotton, Fredonia and Center streets for a safety presentation. From there the group will travel to the courthouse and begin a walk which will wind through most of downtown Longview between High and Green, Methvin and Cotton streets.

"We are going to start off at the parking lot, and have the safety discussion. Then we are going to walk together in groups to our starting point (at the Gregg County Courthouse)," Thiessen said. "It is a reminder to those in public office of our rights, but also we are doing this publicly because we want to begin a conversation."

Many residents and some law enforcement officers don't know all the laws concerning the carrying of firearms, Thiessen said.

While those participating in the event will be encouraged to exercise gun safety, Thiessen said each person would be responsible for their own firearms.

Longview Police Department spokeswoman Kristi Brian said the group had contacted the police department to inform them of their plans.

Brian said there is nothing inherently illegal about carrying rifles openly; however, a person is not allowed to use them to "cause fear or alarm or panic."

A post on the group's Facebook event page listed tips to make sure the marchers remained legal including: Always treat your weapon as if it is loaded, be very mindful of your muzzle - never point the weapon at anything that you would not shoot, only long guns are permitted to be openly carried.

The march is the first of its kind in Longview in recent memory, Brian said.



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