BELTON (June 30, 2013) -- The City of Belton hasn’t been without a 4th of July Parade for nearly 164 years. The annual salute to American
Independence began in 1850.
But the 2013 parade slated for this Thursday may be the first one since its inception that is gun-less.
Color Guard soldiers and American Civil War re-enactors have toted rifles in the parade for years. It’s a tradition
that 26-year-old Belton native Robert Sneed cherishes and respects.
“That’s easily one of my best memories growing up was going and seeing that parade,” Sneed said.
Sneed is a board member for ‘Open Carry Texas,’ a local organization dedicated to carrying firearms openly and
legally in public.
The group was founded earlier this year by C.J. Grisham, a Fort Hood soldier who was arrested by Temple Police in
March while walking along a public road with his son.
Grisham had a loaded assault rifle strapped across his chest.
While Grisham had the right to carry a firearm, a person called police out of concern after seeing the weapon in
Grisham's son recorded video on his phone of police confiscating his dad's weapon and taking Grisham into custody.
Grisham’s arrest had many in the local public questioning as to why he was ever stopped and arrested.
Under state law, carrying a long rifle (this includes many assault style rifles) in certain public areas is legal.
‘Open Carry Texas’ now routinely marches in those public areas toting rifles to further educate the public about this notion.
"A lot of people just don't realize that when they see someone walking around with a rifle that in tons of cases it’s totally legal,” Sneed said.
So when the organization learned that the theme for Belton’s 4th of July Parade was selected as “Symbols of Freedom,” they signed up to march with their rifles in the parade.
The Belton Chamber of Commerce approved their application.
"With us being out there with our long weapons, we would be educating the public on the freedoms we still have," Sneed said.
But the chamber's insurance carrier thwarted any chance of that happening.
"We would have not received any coverage for firearm related accidents when we talked to our insurance carrier," Belton Chamber of Commerce President Stephanie O’Banion said.
"There's a list of safety regulations that have developed over the years to insure we are executing a very safe event for the community."
All Color Guard soldiers and American Civil War re-enactors who have toted rifles in the parade for years won't be allowed to anymore.
The chamber says they and ‘Open Carry Texas’ will be allowed to march in the parade but unarmed.
It's a disappointment for Sneed, who says ‘Open Carry Texas’ will not be affected by this 2nd Amendment hurdle.
"If you're not willing to use your rights you're willing to lose them...this is a right granted to me and I'll express it to the fullest," Sneed said.