Olmos Park repeals loaded long gun ordinance

Vote follows incidents between police, gun rights activists

By Garrett Brnger - Reporter

OLMOS PARK, Texas - Following weeks of confrontations between police officers and gun rights activists, the Olmos Park City Council voted unanimously Thursday to repeal a city ordinance prohibiting the carrying of loaded shotguns or rifles on public streets.

"I felt like that our ordinance was a little overreaching in regards to what the state has dictated and may not be valid in a court," Councilman Enzo Pellegrino said.

It's a view certainly shared by gun activists, who have clashed with the city's police officers in recent weeks over the open carrying of long guns, which, unlike the open carrying of handguns, does not require a license in Texas.

"On the one hand, we're glad to see it done, but it's one very small step and very late," said Rick Briscoe, legislative director of Open Carry Texas, or OCT, a gun rights group. "The city should have gotten on board with state law years ago."

Briscoe and other members of OCT were walking through Olmos Park on Tuesday, with at least one person openly carrying an AR-15-style rifle. In a video posted to YouTube, the group can be seen having a tense encounter with police that ends with the group's founder, CJ Grisham, in handcuffs.

Grisham was shocked with a stun gun and suffered an injury, according to a news release from OCT.

Bexar County records show that Grisham was charged with assault of a peace officer, interfering with the duties of a public servant and obstructing a passageway or roadway. He was released on a $13,000 bond.

Briscoe said two other people, Jim Everard and Joanna Castro, were arrested and charged with interfering with the duties of a public servant, though Castro's charge came from a previous incident.

A City Council meeting, with an agenda item for "possible legal challenge to City ordinance and options on how to proceed," had already been scheduled for Thursday when the confrontation happened.

Briscoe and OCT Vice President David Amad both said there had been previous incidents between Olmos Park police and other activists, including San Antonio-based civil rights activist Jack Miller.

Miller said he came out to test the department's adherence to state gun laws, not just the city's long gun ordinance, posting all of his interactions on YouTube.

Olmos Park Police Chief Rene Valenciano declined to comment for this story, though according to a March 21 statement from the city, "a group of individuals alleging to be gun activists have been detained and, in some situations, arrested by Olmos Park Police Officers." The statement did not mention Miller or anyone else by name.

Though the ordinance was repealed, it appeared not all council members were happy about it.

Reached via email, Councilwoman Sharon Plant replied in part:

"In today's climate of mass shooting, and random police shootings I don't believe that any person or any business owner will ever be 'ok' seeing a group of people on the side of the road or in front of their place of business, with weapons draped around their bodies and automatically think that this a normal and legal activity-regardless of that persons 'right' to do so."

Even with the ordinance off the books, Open Carry Texas still plans to go ahead with a rally on April 7. According to the Facebook event page, "Olmos Park PD Forced Education Rally," the group plans to demonstrate with "lawfully carried firearms."

"The ordinance isn't the only problem," Briscoe said. "The problem is an out-of-control police department."

 

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