AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — State troopers arrested two men said to be carrying antique pistols outside the Texas Capitol on Saturday during a demonstration by a gun-rights group that also helped spearhead a rally of openly armed supporters last week at the Alamo.
The two men were arrested for criminal trespass and have refused to identify themselves to authorities, Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said.
"The men were openly carrying suspected deadly weapons and were given the opportunity to leave the area, but refused," Vinger wrote in an email. He said no other information about the arrest was available.
Leaders of the gun-rights group Open Carry Texas said their members did not provoke troopers and were within their legal rights to carry the pistols. Victoria Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the group, described the weapons as black-powder revolvers made before 1899.
Montgomery said the group doesn't go looking for trouble but instead wants to educate the public that the kind of antique weapons carried by the men arrested Saturday can legally be open carried. Long guns can also be openly carried, though Texas law prohibits open carrying of handguns.
"We're proud of us educating the public. We thought it was an admirable endeavor," Montgomery said. "But DPS obviously has an issue with that."
C.J. Grisham, the president of Open Carry Texas who said he originally wanted to bring an assault rifle to the rally, scoffed at authorities' description of the pistols as a deadly weapon.
"We had flagpoles that we could've beat people with too," Grisham said.
The gathering at the Capitol included about a dozen gun-rights supporters. They were surrounded by a visible trooper presence on hand for the Texas Book Festival, which spreads dozens of events inside and around the Capitol and attracts thousands of people.
Members of the group could be seen pressing troopers about why the demonstrators were handcuffed. The gathering outside the front Capitol steps dispersed about an hour later.
Last week's "Come and Take It San Antonio!" rally at the Alamo was intended to draw attention to a right Texans already have - to carry long arms publicly so long as they don't do it in a menacing manner. Organizers thought it necessary to offer a reminder after several open carry advocates were threatened with arrest at a Starbucks in the city two months ago.
Rally organizers had said just holding their demonstration in front of San Antonio police without incident was a victory.