Kory Watkins, the head of Open Carry Tarrant County (OCTC), has posted a video message that has raised alarm for seeming to make death threats against Texas Legislators who do not support removing license requirements and other restrictions on the open carry of guns.
Watkins posted the video on his Facebook page Wednesday morning but removed it shortly thereafter, as reported by the Houston Chronicle. Before Watkins had removed the video, a YouTube user named “CoCo Mars” was able to capture it and post it online:
In the four minute video, apparently taken with a cell phone camera, Watkins expresses his frustration with lawmakers who hesitate to pass laws that would allow Texans to openly carry guns without the need for licenses or other restrictions, or “constitutional carry.”
Watkins calls requiring a license unconstitutional and treasonous, but does not stop there. He states repeatedly that the lawmakers’ behavior he has deemed to be treasonous should be “punishable by death,” and calls on viewers of the video to take action themselves against lawmakers who do not support constitutional carry.
“They don’t want to give it to us, but it’s up to us, how bad we want it, to go get it,” says Watkins.”Texans, I’m tired of jacking around. I’m tired of playing politically correct games…this isn’t a game. This is reality and these are our rights that they’re playing with.”
“Let me remind you, going against the Constitution is treason. And, my friend, that is punishable by death,” says Watkins, emphasizing the last two words.
Watkins continues, rejecting calls for peaceful dialogue and calling for action. “That’s how serious this is…We’re not playing around,” he says. “I don’t think they want to mess with us too much longer. They better start giving us our rights, or this peaceful non-cooperation stuff is going to be, umm, gamed up. We’re going to step it up a notch. I think here in Texas we’re sick of jacking around with people in suits who think they can take away freedoms in the name of safety.”
“We should be demanding these people give us our rights back or it’s punishable by death,” says Watkins, again emphasizing those words. “Treason! You understand how serious this is, Texas? We’re going to start sticking more than foots in doors, OK? This is treason against the American people…You’re going to find trouble.”
Watkins’ frustration perhaps would be better directed at himself and the other OCTC members.
As Breitbart Texas reported, the Texas Legislature is generally viewed as strongly supportive of gun rights, and Governor Greg Abbott (R), on the day after he was elected, vowed that if the Legislature sent him an open carry bill, he would sign it. However, the aggressive messaging and tactics by OCTC and some other open carry activists have alarmed lawmakers and ignited a media firestorm.
Watkins’ group was sharply criticized after their behavior during a visit to the office of Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) led to the House appropriating funds for “panic buttons” to be installed in lawmakers’ offices. Nevárez and his family also received threats and he is now traveling with a security detail. Former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson (R), himself a strong advocate of Second Amendment rights and the author of Texas’ concealed handgun law, pulled no punches in his reaction to OCTC, calling them “nut jobs” and blaming them for pushing open carry “off the rails” in Texas.
The open carry of long arms, like rifles or shotguns, is legal in Texas, but not handguns. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) has sent two open carry handgun bills, SB 342 and SB 346, to committee, as Breitbart Texas reported. Senate Bill 346 expands the powers granted under a CHL and allows a license holder to also openly carry a handgun, whereas SB 342 allows both open and concealed carry of handguns without any license requirements, or “constitutional carry.”
Constitutional carry is the position preferred by OCTC, as Watkins states in his video message, and Watkins himself has another personal reason to support it. An open carry law like that proposed by SB 346 would establish a licensing procedure like the one needed for a CHL, and passing a criminal background check is a mandatory step. According to the Houston Chronicle, both Watkins and CJ Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas, both have been arrested for interfering with the public duties of a peace officer, which is a Class B misdemeanor.
Among other restrictions, Texas law prohibits anyone convicted of a Class A or Class B misdemeanor from obtaining a CHL for five years, and those charged with such crimes are also ineligible while their cases are pending. If someone already has a CHL, it will be rescinded until the case is resolved. Watkins and Grisham have made statements opposing Texas’ licensing procedures, saying that the law’s requirement to pay the licensing fee, submit an application, and obtain a license, is an infringement on Second Amendment rights.
So far, lawmakers seem more supportive of expanding the CHL approach to open carry, rather than passing a constitutional carry bill. Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), the chair of the State Affairs Committee that will hold public hearings on the open carry bills, told the Chronicle that some type of open carry would “probably” pass, but called constitutional carry “highly unlikely.”
Patterson agreed. “I don’t think we’re going to get unlicensed open carry this session. This attention [from open carry activists] has generated so much bad press where people have second thoughts about it.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.