President Barack Obama is heading to Austin, Texas, on March 11 to help launch this year’s South by Southwest Interactive festival, but he won’t be able to mingle with musicians and “thinkfluencers" without first braving a crowd of open carry gun activists.
This is the third time gun rights activists have used SXSW to promote their message, but this year is the first time handguns, in addition to rifles and shotguns, are legal, The Washington Post reported.
“I’m going to open carry my rifle and hand out literature at SXSW Friday,” CJ Grisham, leader of the pro-gun group Open Carry Texas, wrote on Facebook, according to The Dallas Morning News. “I just found out Obama is going to SXSW. This may get interesting.”
Grisham clarified that he didn’t mean his remark as a threat. “I don’t condone violence against anybody unless it’s in self defense,” he explained. “Anybody who calls for the death of anybody else without legal justification is aberrant to me.”
Grisham added, “Quite frankly there are idiot zealots on both sides of the gun argument.”
“If you get a clear shot, please fire for effect!,” one Facebook user commented on Grisham's post. However, other activists shut him down quickly. Robert Hoback, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said they were “aware of this posting," and are "conducting the appropriate follow-up."
Grisham said there won’t be any changes to their activities, despite the presence of one of the most heavily guarded men in the world. "We're going to go, and we're going to do our event the way we normally do our event," he said.
"We're there peacefully and lawfully to exercise our rights and hand out educational materials and nothing more. That's it. We're not going to be dictated to by any government entity in public to say we can or can't exercise our rights just because some human being decided he wants to take a left down a street we just happen to be on.”