Open Carry Texas comes to SXSW

Open carry supporters are using SXSW as an opportunity to educate attendees on the new gun law. They say a holstered handgun is nothing to fear.

Open Carry Texas members walked down Congress Friday afternoon with their handguns lawfully on display. They were also armed with handouts hoping to further explain the new open carry law to the SXSW crowd.

"What we do is advocate for changes in our state law to restore freedom to the citizens of Texas so they can choose whether they want to be armed or not,” said one Open Carry Texas member.

This is the third time the group has used the big audience to share their message.

"We want people to see that there's really nothing to fear in a guy that's got a holstered handgun. We want it to look normal. We want people to get used to seeing it so that they can get over their, what I call irrational fears,” said Open Carry Texas President C.J. Grisham.

Their presence was much more eye-catching in years past as they carried rifles. Handguns were illegal at that time.

But even now, the controversy remains. A topless protestor made their efforts difficult. 

"We don't need guns downtown. Get your guns out of here,” she yelled.

Texas Gun Sense Executive Director Andrea Brauer, says SXSW is not the proper environment for such a demonstration.

"I know in general license to carry holders are law-abiding citizens and that's great, but with SXSW, there's big crowds, there's people drinking and I just don't think it's a good mix,” Brauer said.

Adding to the chaos, the president is in town. Open Carry Texas President C. J. Grisham says he scheduled the event before the president's plans were made public.

"The president has no bearing on what we do. The president's the president. We're the people. And I'm not going to change my schedule because some guy with a title that he earned through an election decided he was going to come to town,” said Grisham.

Look for the group to be in Downtown Austin throughout SXSW.

"To me, education is not about look at me with my gun and I'm a good guy. I don't think there's a need for that education. It's an individual choice and Texas has declared we honor that individual choice and I wish they would just leave it at that,” said Brauer.

SXSW posted a strict weapons-free policy on its website. It says SXSW is a private event. Participants are prohibited from carrying weapons of any kind onto the premises of any official SXSW event.

It further states, "SXSW believes that open carry laws are poor public policy. However, we believe that the new law will not change the fact that Austin has one of the lowest violent crime rates of any city in the United States."

View the entire policy here.