Open carry activist says he wasn’t threatening lawmakers in video

A Tarrant County gun-rights activist denied Wednesday that he was threatening lawmakers when he posted a Facebook video saying opposition to open-carry bills was treason “that is punishable by death.”

In the video, Kory Watkins with Open Carry Tarrant County said Texas gun advocates were “tired of jacking around with people in suits who think they can take away freedoms in the name of safety.”

“I don’t know if they forgot what their duty is, but it’s to protect the Constitution. And let me remind you, going against the Constitution is treason. And, my friend, that is punishable by death. That’s how serious this is,” Watkins said.

“They better start giving us our rights or this peaceful non-cooperation stuff is going to be gamed up. We’re going to step it up a notch,” he said. “We should be demanding these people give us our rights back, or it’s punishable by death.”

Watkins removed the video from his Facebook page Wednesday morning, explaining that he intended to show that the nation’s founders took treason seriously, not to threaten members of the Texas Legislature, which is debating whether to allow openly carried handguns in the state.

“Let me make it clear and unequivocal: I was not talking about hurting legislators, or anyone else. I am an advocate of peaceful non-cooperation,” he wrote. “When I speak of ‘stepping it up a notch,’ (I) mean within the boundaries of peaceful non-cooperation. Instead of just a foot in the door, perhaps we need ‘sit ins’ chanting ‘hell no we won’t go.'”

Almost a dozen open-carry bills have been filed this session.

Watkins is an advocate of so-called “constitutional carry,” which would allow any legal gun owner to appear in public with a holstered sidearm.

But the bills that appear, so far, to have the best chance of success would allow only those who hold concealed handgun permits to openly carry their guns.

In the video, Watkins said politicians who favor a licensed-carry law do so because of money, not safety concerns.

“Texans, I’m tired of jacking around. I’m tired of playing politically correct games,” he said. “This isn’t a game. This is reality, and this is our rights they are playing with.”

Watkins was among the open-carry advocates who confronted state Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, in his Capitol office on the session’s opening day. The sometimes tense confrontation prompted House members to vote to allow “panic buttons” to be installed in legislative offices so law officers could be summoned more quickly.

Threats received by Nevárez after the confrontation prompted the Department of Public Safety to issue a security detail to the legislator.

Critics of Watkins’ tactics, including some in the gun-rights movement, say he is hurting chances of open carry’s success this session.

CJ Grisham with Open Carry Texas said Wednesday that his meetings with lawmakers have been dominated by questions “about Kory and his video about killing legislators.”

“Kory Watkins is not the face of the open carry movement; he’s the ass. Every time we start regaining momentum, he opens his blow hole and sticks both feet in,” Grisham wrote.

Gun opponents drove another point Wednesday.

“Open carry extremists have been threatening the safety and sanity of our communities for far too long, and now they are threatening the lives of Texas legislators,” said Claire Larson with the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“If Texas lawmakers continue to prioritize the expansion of open carry in any form, they are condoning this type of dangerous behavior,” Larson said.