The Texas House approved new rules to add panic buttons in House offices on Wednesday after a confrontational open carry group harassed state lawmakers on Tuesday. On the opening day of the 2015 legislative session, over a dozen activists from Open Carry Tarrant County visited the Capitol to try to persuade legislators to approve House Bill 195. The measure calls for overturning Texas’ 125-year ban on the open carry of handguns. Texas already allows for the open carry of shotguns and rifles.
The Open Carry Tarrant County group, led by Kory Watkins, visited the offices of several state lawmakers. While citizens clearly have the right to apply constituent pressure to encourage lawmakers to vote a certain way, the open carry activists became so belligerent that persuasion gave way to bullying tactics and outright intimidation. Their provocative behavior prompted the House to add a rule that would permit the installation of Department of Public Safety (DPS) panic buttons in member offices.
The open carry group videotaped an exchange with representative Poncho Nevarez (below). While the recording was supposed to rally people to the open carry activists’ cause, the rude, threatening behavior of the cameraman stood out more than anything else, as he taunted the lawmaker and refused to leave when asked to depart. When asked to leave the office, one of the activists shouted back at Nevarez, “you need to leave my state”.
The actions were even denounced by other open carry groups. C.J. Grisham of Open Carry Texas, harshly condemned the Open Carry Tarrant County group’s tactics. On Facebook, Grisham posted:
I’ll be spending tomorrow cleaning up the horse manure Kory Watkins dropped throughout the Capitol today instead of building support for constitutional carry. If starting fires were up for a vote, he’d be a grand arsonist. Yes, I said it. Some of us actually want bills passed that repeal laws violating our fundamental rights instead of vying for the title of Jackass of the Year. I’m done playing softball. I’m still getting phone calls from representatives and media hours later.
Grisham refers to Watkins as “a malignant cancer for the gun rights movement” who could jeopardize open carry legislation with his confrontational tactics. Grisham has a valid point. The argument that “an armed society is a polite society” isn’t very compelling when the people carrying guns are incredibly rude. Open Carry Tarrant County may enjoy heckling lawmakers, but being bullies who like to carry guns isn’t doing their cause any favors.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.