Texas House Lawmakers Push the Panic Button

Permissive Texas gun policies are giving armed insurrectionists leeway to openly intimidate elected officials

Yesterday, legislators in the Texas House of Representatives approved new security measures to protect themselves. Members can now install panic buttons in their offices at taxpayer expense.

They took this step less than 24 hours after the events in this video, which was the impetus for the change.

I was deeply disturbed watching this encounter between open carry activists and Texas state House Representative Poncho Nevárez, a Latino legislator who was named the Freshman Democrat of the Year by his Texas House of Representatives colleagues during the 83rd Texas Legislature in 2013.

Keep in mind when you watch the video that Texas allows individuals with a concealed handgun permit to bring loaded firearms into the State Capitol.

Also keep in mind that Nevárez's children and in-laws were in the office at the time.

You'll hear Nevárez direct his staff to call Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers at the 1:00 mark.

Finally, you might recall that Open Carry Texas/Open Carry Tarrant County member Veronica Dunnachie is facing capital murder charges after shooting and killing her estranged husband and his 20 year-old daughter on December 10th of last year.

Violence here is no longer theoretical, and weak Texas gun laws are giving it every chance to happen.

The backdrop to the video is a rally that occurred at the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday in favor of H.B. 195. The bill would remove the requirement that Texas residents obtain a permit before openly carrying loaded handguns in the state (concealed carry of handguns does require a permit). Under such a law, individuals would have carte blanche to openly carry weapons in public without undergoing any screening for criminal and mental health history, and without having to demonstrate any proficiency with firearms. Representative Nevárez has made it clear he does not support H.B. 195.

The rally was conducted by open carry group Lone Star Gun Rights (LSGR). Also present was Open Carry Texas leader C.J. Grisham, who believes in doing away with all regulation of firearms and wants crime guns untraceable; and Open Carry Tarrant County leader Kory Watkins, whose car was recently totaled by a drunk driver minutes after he led an armed protest against police officers for their deployment of a DWI (traffic safety) checkpoint.

Tuesday's rally also featured Come and Take It members manufacturing 3D-printed firearms on location at the Capitol, without the federal license required to manufacture firearms. They used a machine called the Ghost Runner, which was invented by insurrectionist Texas law student Cody Wilson.

It was Kory Watkins who filmed the confrontation with Nevárez. In the room with him were activists Jacob Cordova, AKA Ben Franklin, who later posted on Facebook, "silly representatives forgot who they work for"; Kevin Kester, Molly Pitcher; Tom Jefferson; Sam Mance; and LSGR leader Martin Cohn.

C.J. Grisham says he was initially at the meeting but "had to leave in disgust" once his fellow open carry activists initiated "intimidating and aggressive" behavior--an interesting comment from a man who has been convicted for provoking a confrontation with law enforcement. Grisham is the founder of the modern Open Carry movement in Texas, remember. This is his Frankenstein and even he can't control it.

Nevárez showed real courage in his interaction with the armed, radical activists. "I'm loath to throw somebody out," he said later. "I've never had to do that, ever, and I hope I never have to do that again. It's not a good way to talk about things. It's not my way." He recounted that one individual in the group "reeked" of marijuana and admitted he was "unnerved" by his knowledge that most of the people he was dealing with were probably armed.

No elected official in our great country should ever be put in such a position. There is only one purpose to the behavior you see on this video: to intimidate legislators into compliance and prevent what would otherwise be open, democratic debates about policy.

The belief of some individuals that their guns override our laws is not a new one. We've seen it in America before, most notably during Shays' Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion. And it is certainly not an idea that our Founders took kindly to. It was the leading general of our Revolutionary War, President George Washington, who rode out at the head of 13,000 state militiamen to put down the Whiskey Rebels, for example. My organization, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, has been keeping a running timeline of threats and actual acts of insurrectionary violence since 2008. The uprising at the Bundy ranch is just the tip of the iceberg, I can assure you.

Texas legislators will now have to consider whether they want to approve legislation that would give activists like the ones they saw on Tuesday the ability to openly carry loaded handguns on their streets without permits, background checks or training. If they are even remotely concerned about self-preservation, they might also consider legislation to keep guns out of the Texas State Capitol, their new panic buttons notwithstanding.

We typically associate destabilized societies where might makes right with Third World countries. Armed thuggery might be the way they make policy in some places around the world, but not here in this great country. Such coercion is completely antithetical to our Constitution and the American way of life.