Zealous Texas gun rights group may be shooting itself in the foot

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 05, 2015 5:16 PM

By Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Maria Garza

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Gun rights bills proposed for gun-friendly Texas and backed by a supportive Republican majority in the statehouse have hit a speed bump because zealous campaigning by a gun rights advocacy group has slowed momentum for the measure.

The leader of Open Carry Tarrant County, criticized for extreme tactics that have alienated some gun rights supporters, came under further scrutiny this week for indirectly threatening death for those who did not approve a proposed measure allowing Texans to openly carry handguns in public.

"These are our rights that they're playing with," Kory Watkins said in a video posted on Facebook.

"Going against the Constitution is treason. And my friend, that is punishable by death," he said, adding if lawmakers do not give them their gun rights, the group is "going to step it up a notch."

Watkins has since taken down the video, saying people misunderstood him.

Supporters of open carry said the statement has hurt their cause while gun control advocates Moms Demand Action said approving open carry would be tantamount to condoning Watkins' type of dangerous behavior.

C.J. Grisham, head of Open Carry Texas, which is not affiliated with the Tarrant County group, said the comments were meant to intimidate, and wrong.

"Kory Watkins is not the face of the open carry movement; he's the ass," he wrote on his Facebook page this week.

The Tarrant County group has already been criticized for urging its members to take military-style weapons into crowded fast-food restaurants and department stores.

Even though many Republican and some Democratic lawmakers support an open carry law, there is little time to steer a bill through a legislature charged with managing a state with an economy as large as South Korea's that meets every other year for a just 140 days.

Senator Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican who has written an open carry bill, said the focus on extreme statements may hurt the chances of getting passed something that is widely supported in the state.

State Representative Jonathan Stickland, a Republican from Tarrant County and an open carry supporter, added: "Any time one of these situations pops up, it gives cover to people who are already having reservations about the bill."

Republican Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday urged civil debate and said he thought the measure would become law this session.

"I would put a high probability on open carry passing," Abbott told radio broadcaster KFYO.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin and Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Addiitonal reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio)