A gun rights group plans a political event in a Santa Fe park later this month during which members will call for more public school employees to be armed, the organization’s president said.
The group, called This is Texas Freedom Force, plans the “Carry For Our Kids” event for June 23 at Runge Park, a small public park about 2 miles from Santa Fe High School.
Brandon Burkhardt, the group’s president, Tuesday said Texas school districts should allow more of their employees to be armed in case of school shootings.
“The Second Amendment is covered for everybody to carry arms,” Burkhardt said. “Any teacher that wants to carry a gun should be able to.”
The group has held pro-gun rallies in other cities, as well as events protesting removal of Confederate monuments from some cities. Pictures posted on the group’s website show members at events carrying rifles, wearing camouflage and displaying Confederate flags.
Burkhardt said he didn’t want to call the event in Santa Fe a rally. The aim was to have a conversation about gun rights, he said.
Group leaders told members they don’t need to bring “full battle rattle” to the Santa Fe event. The phrase refers to body armor and ammunition members carry when they feel threatened by other groups.
Burkhardt said he expected some people to carry sidearms at the event, but didn’t think many would bring rifles as they have to other events.
“We want people to be able to feel comfortable at the event,” he said
Galveston County’s parks department, which manages Runge Park, confirmed the group had received a permit to hold an event June 23.
This would be the first political event planned in Santa Fe since a May 18 shooting at Santa Fe High School that left 10 people dead and 13 others injured.
Burkhardt said he was convinced that had teachers in Santa Fe and at other school shootings been armed, they could have prevented some people from being killed.
While the group supports training and licensing teachers who want to be armed, Burkhardt said school administrators shouldn’t be allowed to limit who and how many people can carry weapons at a school.
“We should do away from the gun-free zones altogether,” he said.
Concealed weapons generally are prohibited from public school campuses, but Texas laws sanction two programs through which school districts can appoint, train and allow staff members to be armed.
After the shooting, the Santa Fe ISD school board President J.R. “Rusty” Norman told the Washington Post the district had approved a plan to start arming teachers. District officials have declined to speak about that effort since then, however.
The group’s social media page advertises “big name speakers” at the event. Texas Republican Party Chairman James Dickey is listed as a possible attendee, but a party spokesman said Dickey would be traveling out of the country during the event.
No Santa Fe city or school officials are listed as scheduled to speak at the event. The school district is not involved in planning the event, spokeswoman Patti Hanssard said in an email Tuesday. She did not answer a question about the district’s thoughts on the event.
Neither Santa Fe Mayor Jason Tabor nor Norman returned phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.
Most events held in Santa Fe since the shooting have focused on fundraising for victims and emotional support.
Three days after the shooting, the gun control group March For Our Lives announced its representatives would not publicly discuss the Santa Fe shooting, and encouraged local residents to share their own thoughts and opinions with the media.
The Houston chapter of March For Our Lives later held an event with some Santa Fe High School students in Houston. At that event, the students called for changes in gun storage requirements and better access to mental health care.
March for Our Lives’ national platform calls for gun law changes such as a comprehensive ban on AR-15 style weapons.
Burkhardt said he thought Santa Fe residents would welcome the event. Among other things, the event will feature a raffle for a license-to-carry course. Proceeds of the raffle will go toward paying for weapons training for a Santa Fe-area teacher, he said.
“We’re coming to have a conversation,” he said. “It is very special to us.”