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Mixed Reactions To The Houston Rodeo’s Ban On Carrying Handguns On Its Grounds

Some regular visitors support the decision, but others say it goes against Texans who have legally obtained a license.


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The organizers of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo have banned carrying handguns on its grounds, both concealed and open carry.
Ed Schipul. Creative Commons license.
The organizers of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo have banned carrying handguns on its grounds, both concealed and open carry.

The decision by the organizers of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to not allow visitors carrying handguns, neither concealed nor open carry, at this year's event has the support of some, but there are also those who criticize the policy.

The event announced its policy in mid-February, mostly by arguing the Rodeo is family-oriented and carrying handguns could be detrimental. As a private organization, Rodeo officials argue they have the right to ban handguns.

Concealed carry was already prohibited at the Rodeo in 2015.

One of the supporters of the decision is Rudy Zertuche, a 68 year-old Veteran who is a member of The Noisy Boys, one of the cooking teams participating in the Rodeo's famous Bar-B-Que contest.

"I am in favor of what the rule and the law states," says the Veteran in reference to the law the Texas Legislature passed in 2015 allowing Texans who have a handgun license to carry their firearm openly, "but I think there's places that I don’t think it should be carried out."

Zertuche considers the Rodeo to be one of the places where the ban is appropriate.

Joel Cowley, the event's President and CEO, explains the Executive Committee unanimously voted against allowing handguns on the grounds.

"We just feel it's in the best interest of our core consumer to not allow it and we feel that we provide more than adequate security on our grounds," Cowley tells Houston Public Media.

Rodeo security is provided by the Harris County Sheriff's Office and the Houston Police Department.

For Sandra Gonzalez, a 29 year-old Houston resident, a mother and a Rodeo regular, the ban makes sense because "seeing anybody carrying a weapon would just raise a red flag for me if they're not in uniform."

"You don't know what their intentions are going to be," adds Gonzalez in reference to armed persons.

However, the group Open Carry Texas is critical of the Rodeo's policy.

They think that, to a certain extent, it goes against Texans who have legally obtained a handgun license.

David Amad is the group's Vice President and its leader in Houston. He agrees the event has an effective security plan, but he says there are some nuances.

"They probably have great security at Reliant, at the stadium. That's not the only place that you have to go if you are attending their event. You have to go to a parking lot which can be quite a ways away," Amad notes.

Sometimes those long walks happen at night, for instance after a concert, and Amad thinks that is when Rodeo visitors might be at risk of being robbed or assaulted.

Cowley clarifies that, if you inadvertently arrive at the Rodeo with a gun, you can leave it in your vehicle.

He also explains that allowing handguns would have meant a big challenge in terms of the event's logistics.

"This year we'll have over 60,000 Houston area school children coming on our grounds for school tours and to try and segregate out places where you could and could not carry would be incredibly cumbersome and be very difficult," says Cowley.

Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to clarify that rodeo officials argue they can ban guns at its event.

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