Two gun-rights groups carried guns on a march through downtown Austin, Texas, before acting out "exaggerated skits" designed to show the dangers of gun-free zones.
Texas universities are grappling with a new state law permitting campus carry, set to take effect August 1, 2016. Some private institutions opted out entirely and plan to continue banning guns on campus. Public institutions do not have that option, but do have the ability to create gun-free zones at their own discretion.
The event was organized by the group Come and Take It Texas and website DontComply.com, which share a president and founder, Murdoch Pizgatti.
"We reference gun-free zones as victim zones or target-rich environments," Pizgatti told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday before the event. "It's fish in a barrel for someone who wants to do harm."
Fewer demonstrators turned out for the Life and Liberty Walk to End Gun Free Zones than expected—only about one dozen total. They were widely outnumbered by journalists and counter-protestors. The demonstrators marched through a section of downtown Austin, Texas, flanking the University of Texas (UT) at Austin campus.
Later in the afternoon, the groups staged a mock mass shooting on a sidewalk next to UT-Austin's West Mall. The university's clock tower—site of a real mass shooting in 1966—loomed behind the scene. There were two skits: in the first, two men use cardboard guns and ketchup bottles to attack six "victims" wearing shirts that read "Gun Free UT." In the second, a new player enters and attacks the two "gunmen" before they reach any victims.
After it was announced last week, the protest drew widespread attention. Even some gun-advocacy groups criticized the event for being inflammatory in the wake of real mass attacks on Paris and San Bernardino, California.
But the increasingly dangerous world—and the need for more protection—were exactly the points protesters hoped to make, a spokesperson for the organizing groups told the New York Times.
"We're sick of watching people die in these mass-murder situations," said Matthew Short, public relations representative for both groups (Freedman, Daily Beast, 12/12; Associated Press/Chicago Tribune, 12/12; Montgomery, New York Times, 12/12; Miranda, Buzzfeed News, 12/9).
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