Pastor carries rifle in Hunstville to raise awareness of open carry laws

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by Kevin Reece / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on August 16, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 17 at 3:07 PM

HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Terry Holcomb Sr. is a pastor in San Jacinto County, but he is also a staunch advocate of the 2nd Amendment who is now taking his rifle on walks through Huntsville to get people talking about gun laws in Texas.

In videos he posted on YouTube, Holcomb is shown walking into Double Dave’s Pizza, Starbucks, Jack in the Box and Walmart in Huntsville. He carries his AR-15 Bushmaster .223 slung over his shoulder, behind his back with the barrel pointed down. He said the magazine was loaded, the chamber was empty and the safety was on.

Holcomb said customers and business owners didn’t complain until he got to Walmart. Within minutes a manager asked him to leave. Holcomb didn’t argue and walked out of the store as requested.

“Well, the Walmart in Huntsville definitely doesn’t honor 2nd Amendment rights,” he said in the video as he walked into the store parking lot.

“And that is their absolute right,” Holcomb told us in an interview a week after he posted the videos. “I respect their right just as much as I want them to respect mine.”

Holcomb said the reason he took the walk through Huntsville and through several private businesses was to educate people about Texas open carry laws and how he, and thousands of other gun rights activists, would like to see Texas law changed.

Texas is not an “open carry” state. You cannot legally in Texas, like you can in the state of Virginia for example, carry a handgun openly on your hip. Texas law states the handgun must be concealed under your clothing.

Texas also requires a concealed handgun license that comes only after several hours of required classroom instruction. However, it is legal to carry a long rifle in the open in Texas, with certain limitations like those legally enforced by private businesses.

Holcomb calls that difference between handguns and rifles in Texas law is what he would like changed.

“Whether it be opened or concealed we just want to be able to choose how we carry,” said Holcomb. “We believe that’s our constitutional right.”

Although a previous trip to Starbucks in Huntsville went without incident or the management confronting him about the weapon, a second trip to the same Starbucks Friday brought a visit by Huntsville police. Someone called 911 after seeing him in the parking lot with the AR-15 and became concerned.

“Kind of scary honestly. It’s a massive gun,” one Starbucks customer told KHOU 11 News, who did not want to give her name.

Two Huntsville police officers talked with Holcomb outside the Starbucks, agreed that he was not breaking any laws, but did question why he thought the display was necessary.

Starbucks policy is to abide by the gun laws in the state in which it operates. Management there did not ask Holcomb to leave.

“You’ll find no person who’s a bigger fan of all the constitutional amendments than me because I am,” said Gerald Treece, a professor at the South Texas College of Law. “But all constitutional rights are subject to some limitations. The ability to take a firearm any place you want by simply citing the 2nd Amendment simply is illogical because all constitutional rights are subject to limitations.”

Holcomb said he’s well aware of those limitations, and while he promises to continue his educational open carry “walks” as he calls them, will abide by the wishes of any private business and leave when asked. But on each walk he hopes to drum up more debate about the open carry movement in Texas.

“We don’t want to carry our long guns,” he said. We would prefer open carry our handguns. But since this is the option they give us this is what we do and we’ll continue to do it until they remove that restriction.”

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