AUSTIN — A rally for tougher gun laws turned into a heated debate when gun rights advocates decided to bring a message of their own on the south side of the Texas Capitol on Saturday.
The organizers of the Texas Rally for Gun Sense said they're not against law-abiding gun owners. They say they're fighting for universal background checks and they want to limit assault weapons and high capacity magazines. They also oppose putting any guns on a school campus.
Among the speakers at the rally were people whose lives have been touched by gun violence.
"She could have fought him off; she would have won if he hadn't had the gun," said Judy Johnson, the sister of a gun violence victim.
Organizers said after devastating shootings in Connecticut, Colorado and Oregon last year, something has to change.
"I've never been so deeply touched as I was after Sandy Hook, and that day was a turning point for me," said Hilary Rand with Moms Demand Action, speaking about December's massacre at a Connecticut elementary school. "I used to just be a mom. Now I'm a mom and an activist."
When a couple of gun rights activists showed up at the event, the crowd rushed to the front to block their signs from the media and the crowd. Police had to step in for crowd control as speakers took the stage and the confrontation heated up.
"Its time to speak up against people who are perpetrating things that are just not true," Rand said. "Nobody wants to ban guns here; we're just trying talking about coming up with sensible solutions that can help make us safer. We're talking about strengthening the laws that we currently have and creating new laws that will help us enforce those laws we currently have. Nobody wants to change the Constitution."
Austin City Council member Mike Martinez even addressed two men carrying a "STOP GUN BAN!" sign, saying that message is currently incorrect.
"We will make your sign legitimate shortly, so you hang on to that," Councilman Martinez told them.
"Passing more gun laws will not keep guns out of the hands of people that don't want to obey the law that are criminals, the very fact that they're criminals means they will ignore any laws," said one of the gun rights activists who calls himself "Texas George."
Speakers at the rally included state legislators from both the House and Senate. The crowd also heard from several victims of gun violence and Austin police Chief Art Acevedo.
"Universal background checks make sense," Chief Acevedo said. "It's not a political issue; it's a common sense issue. It is an issue that's not red or blue. The only red we're talking about is the blood of innocent people being spilled because we're not doing enough as Americans."