The Alamo Heights City Council voted unanimously Wednesday morning to repeal an ordinance that prohibited civilians from carrying a loaded rifle or shotgun in public.
“[The repeal is] not a statement as to how Council, or citizens, or staff feel about the open carry,” Mayor Bobby Rosenthal told the Rivard Report after the meeting. “Some may be for, some may be against, but there’s no choice in it” because it conflicts with state law.
The decision to repeal the ordinance in the enclave municipality of more than 8,000, located just north of downtown San Antonio, follows a parallel decision made last week by Olmos Park’s City Council after gun-rights proponents highlighted the issue.
Olmos Park police arrested Christopher “CJ” Grisham, founder and president of Open Carry Texas, on March 27 while he and others openly carried rifles on McCullough Avenue. Grisham, who faces three criminal charges including felony assault on a police officer, and his supporters argue that police violated state and federal laws protecting the open carry of rifles and shotguns. A video of Grisham’s arrest was posted on YouTube and has garnered more then 30,000 views.
Alamo Heights Police Chief Richard Pruitt told the municipality’s City Council and citizens Wednesday that the repeal would not stop police from investigating reports of people openly carrying firearms within city limits.
“We will investigate all cases of openly displayed rifles and shotguns,” Pruitt said. “We’re going to observe the behaviors out there because it’s not possession or the display of the weapon, it’s the conduct of the individual that’s going to initiate police action.”
Grisham’s arrest, and those of several others, prompted Open Carry Texas to announce an open-carry rally in Olmos Park, scheduled for Saturday, April 7. The event has drawn the interest of more than 900 people, according to its Facebook event page.
“Honestly, we don’t want any demonstrations in our city, and so [repealing the ordinance] was the best means to avoid it,” Rosenthal said. “Hopefully they’ll move on to the next town and see if they can incite another city to act improperly.”
The Alamo Heights ordinance restricting the open carry of rifles and shotguns dates back to 1964, before several state, federal, and Supreme Court court rulings conflicted with its legality, according to information provided by the City Council. The Texas Constitution allows the open carry of rifles and shotguns, and the Texas Legislature recently passed a law which allows the open and concealed carry of handguns with a permit.
Brandon Burkhart, vice president of This is Texas Freedom Force, attended and livestreamed Wednesday’s meeting. He said afterwards that the decision constituted “another small victory.”
“This right here kind of helps out and stops any more officers from being able to act rogue like the Olmos police chief and his officers did,” Burkhart told reporters after the meeting. He said about 125 of his organization’s members would participate in the rally Saturday, and continue to pressure Olmos Park to initiate criminal charges against Police Chief Rene Valenciano for his involvement in Grisham’s arrest.
Some of the demonstrators who openly carried rifles and shotguns in Olmos Park refer to themselves as “auditors,” whereby they observe, and often record, the responses and reactions of law enforcement officers to people carrying firearms. Jack Miller, one such “auditor” who also faces criminal charges in Olmos Park, previously told the Rivard Report that the only way to know whether law enforcement respects open carry laws is to test them.
No one signed up to address the Alamo Heights City Council at the meeting, and the deliberations before the vote lasted little more than four minutes.
The City of San Antonio currently has an ordinance similar to those repealed by both Olmos Park and Alamo Heights.