AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Guns on one side of the street, counter-protesters making bathroom noises on the other.
About a dozen gun rights activists staged an open carry march and mock mass shooting Saturday near the University of Texas, only to be outnumbered by counter-demonstrators who waived sex toys and tried to drown them out with chants.
The groups Come and Take It Texas and Don’tcomply.com initially wanted to hold their event on campus, but were told by school officials they would be charged with criminal trespassing. The group instead held their march, with several members openly carrying real assault-style rifles, in an area of shops and restaurants next to campus known as “The Drag.”
The groups then slipped away from most media and onlookers and regrouped across the street from a campus chapel to “shoot” six people with cardboard guns. Victims were outlined with chalk to show where they fell.
After publicizing their event for nearly a week, organizers said they purposely avoided the crowds and media gathered to cover the event to prove that a shooter can strike anywhere and anytime.
“This is what happens. In real (shooting) events like this, you don’t know when they’re going to happen, you don’t know where they’re going to happen … we purposely did it that way,” said Jason Orsek, vice president of both gun groups.
The march and mock shooting event were met with mocking from Texas students and staff.
“Mock shootings mock victims,” one group chanted while others waived sex toys and sounded off with the noise makers.
The Austin campus is home to one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history: sniper Charles Whitman killed 16 people in 1966, shooting dozens of victims from a perch atop the central clock tower. The event Saturday also occurred two days before the three-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Connecticut that killed 26 people, many of whom were children.
“It’s tasteless,” said Robert Oxford, a Texas graduate student, instructor and member of the group Gun-Free UT said of the mock event.
The Texas legislature this year voted to allow concealed handguns on college campuses although public universities can carve out gun-free zones. Plans under consideration for the Austin campus would prohibit firearms in dorms but allow them in classrooms.