Gun rights groups agreed Wednesday to move their planned mock shooting off the University of Texas campus after the school warned that they could be arrested.
Come and Take It Texas and Dontcomply.com announced plans for the Saturday event that would include cardboard guns and fake blood. The Austin campus is the site of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. Sniper Charles Whitman killed 16 people by shooting dozens of people from a perch atop the central clock tower in 1966.
The university issued a statement warning that the Austin campus isn’t open to outside groups staging demonstrations. The university said violators could face criminal trespassing charges. The group said they would move the event next to campus.
“We will move forward with the event on the adjacent public land using UT as the backdrop,” Murdock Pizgatti, founder of Come and Take It Texas and Dontcomply.com, told the Austin American-Statesman.
The event comes less than two weeks after two gunmen killed 14 people in a Southern California health building. Organizers said the purpose of the event is to rally support for gun rights.
One opponent of an open carry measure set to be approved next year told the Statesman the event is disrespectful to students who already feel anxious on campus.
“Staging a mass shooting during an anxious time for students – finals week – not only breaks rules but shows real disrespect for the feelings of students, faculty and staff who don’t want to have guns around them in the first place, but will be forced to put up with guns in public places in 2016,” University of Texas history professor Joan Neuberger said.
Neuberger is a supporter of Gun Free UT that aims to keep guns off the Austin campus.
University officials said they support free speech but noted outside groups are routinely barred from demonstrating on campus.
"When outside individuals come on campus and violate our rules regarding use of our grounds and facilities, they are asked to leave. If they do not, it becomes a criminal trespass matter," Texas spokesman J.B. Bird said.
The mock mass shooting event would coincide with a planned “open carry” march in Austin with demonstrators carrying long rifles.
State law currently bans guns from college campuses, but that will change next year. State lawmakers voted to allow concealed handgun license holders to bring their weapons on campus, including classrooms and dorms, with some limitations.
University of Texas officials will soon release recommendations on where concealed handguns will be allowed and where they will still be prohibited.
The law has met vigorous resistance from students and faculty. Some teachers have threatened to quit or sue if they are not allowed to ban guns from their classrooms.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.