I should start a series about how dangerous the GOP’s rhetoric has become to itself and why Texas is ground zero. Yesterday there was Rep. Louie Gohmert running for Speaker, where 2/3s of his votes came from Texas (himself and Rep. Randy Weber [yes, he only got 3 votes]), and today another intramural skirmish threatens to upset the party’s cart over a core issue, the 2nd Amendment.
The Open Carry movement has gained steam with grassroots activist taking up arms and demonstrating, and there has been no shortage of politicians eager to encourage them on the campaign trail. But after so much open pandering used to gather electoral support the nuance of the proposed laws are creating actual divisions.
On January 13th, those divisions will be on full display as “Come and Take It Texas” and “Open Carry Tarrant County” will use a 3D printer called a “Ghost Gunner” to manufacture a gun on the South steps of the Capitol. The Facebook invite encourages the open carrying of firearms though organizers caution, “you can open carry long guns and BP pistols only. However, on the capitol grounds, we may still have to disarm. We’ll play that one by ear when we get there.”
In an interview with Alex Jones’ Infowars the leader of another group “Lone Star Guns Rights” says they have organized a rally at 8 a.m. on the same day, but are not encouraging the display of firearms until they have visited all 181 offices of legislators. What these groups do have in common is they are pushing a petition to get “constitutional carry” passed (HB 195).
Well funded political gun rights lobby groups like the NRA are working toward open carry legislation that would still require a Concealed Handgun License (CHL), see James White’s bill. The NRA and other established groups have also been called out as ineffective at protecting gun rights, or even as part of the problem, by grassroots gun rights activists like Open Carry Texas and Come and Take It Texas who support “constitutional carry.” One blogger at Cold Dead Hands wrote in support of building the gun at the Capitol, ”there are those that talk the talk and those that walk the walk. The NRA was founded in 1871, long before the first gun control legislation ever saw the light of day.” He continued saying their efforts have led to, “literally hundreds if not thousands of gun control laws on the books across the United States.”
CJ Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas, also expressed his disillusionment with the NRA telling the Texas Tribune that, “the NRA likes to play nice,” and “we will not compromise on our rights.” The bill supported by these grassroots groups is HB 195 by Jonathan Stickland, and it would eliminate any license requirement to openly carry a handgun.
Still there are divisions among the grassroots groups over effectiveness of tactics. Grisham and OTC distanced itself last year from groups like Open Carry Tarrant County (OCTC) and Come and Take It Texas (CATI) after a string of public firearm displays and confrontations with officers brought negative press and some backlash from within the gun rights community. Grisham wrote to the leader of OCTC Kory Watkins, “Kory, I’ve largely refrained from criticizing you or even your organization. But since you want to start a flame war, I’ll crank up the grill. Your antics are going to get someone hurt, or worse, killed.”
He wasn’t kidding. By the end of last year, one of his group’s members had killed her estranged husband and stepdaughter. Even though there were pictures of them together and her at their rallies on OCTC’s Facebook page, Watkins denied she was a member of the group. Watkins has also taken to Facebook to fantasize about marching on Washington, arresting the bankers and “crooked politicians” because voting “is not working.”
OCTC and CATI only view attempts to moderate their behavior as further acts of tyranny and assaults on their rights. CATI now refers to groups who don’t support their provocative style as “butters,” as in they support gun rights, “but…” So this begs the question, where are all those politicians now? The ones who were so eager to rally the militia to the polls? You can’t really blame anyone from not wanting to step into the middle of a circular firing squad, but do they have any responsibility for the tone of these events?
Governor-elect Greg Abbott, who still sports a petition for open carry on his website, has promised to sign an Open Carry bill. In fact he did sign a copy of HB 195 that was presented to him by an gun rights activist who said he told her, “I need gun owners showing up and being active.” She then went on to describe ”the first big event where we need your presence” on Jan. 13th with Come and Take It Texas.
So far Rep. Stickland hasn’t commented on the controversy surrounding those championing his bill or their tactics, but one of his last twitter conversations was in regards to his bill. Responding to Moms Demand Action, a gun control group, he said, “I believe in personal responsibility, not tyranny.” His previous tweet, minus the apology, characterizes the attitude of the grassroots gun movement, “I’m sorry that my God given rights upset you but it won’t stop me from restoring the constitution in this state.”
This latest antic planned for the first day of session won’t do much for mainstreaming the idea of open carry but it will force some members to reevaluate the company they keep (even at an arms length). It could also damage the prospects of other gun legislation like campus carry but most importantly, like the “non-Speakers‘” race, it shows that the GOP has started to overplay its hand and out message itself.
Update: Shortly after this article was published Rep. Stickland posted a new tweet:
— Jonathan Stickland (@RepStickland) January 7, 2015