AUSTIN – Advocates toting rifles, AR-15s and antique pistols held sentinel outside the Texas Capitol on Monday, the opening day of the 2015 session, gathering in support of legislation to legalize the unlicensed open carry of handguns in the Lone Star State.
In the morning hours Monday, around three dozen pro-gun activists were gathered outside the Capitol gates in support of Rep. Jonathan Stickland’s House Bill 195, a bill that would remove Texas’ 125-year ban on openly carrying handguns. It is legal to tote long guns such as rifles and AR-15s in public in Texas, but the same has not been true for handguns since Reconstruction.
Stickland said Lone Star Gun Rights, an Austin-based advocacy group, so far has gathered around 15,000 signatures in support of his legislation.
“With your help, we are going to storm this Capitol and quit getting on our knees and asking for the Second Amendment back,” Stickland told the armed crowd gathered Monday. “We are going to take it back.”
Also on Monday, members of the group Come and Take It America demonstrated the Ghost Gunner, a one-of-a-kind machine that can be programmed to automatically manufacture gun parts. The machine currently is not for sale, but gun rights advocates said the prototype allows them to produce gun parts for personal use without the need for serial numbers or state or federal oversight.
Pablo Frias, 26, of Arlington, said Monday he openly carries his firearm “for educational purposes.” He said it’s “ridiculous” that Texans can openly tote a rifle but not a handgun, and called the fee for the state’s concealed handgun license a tax.
“It no longer becomes a right, it becomes a privilege,” Frias said of the “right to bear arms.”
Inside the Capitol, pro-gun advocates planned to visit all 181 legislative offices Monday. In a video posted to his Facebook page, Open Carry Tarrant County head Kory Watkins and other pro-gun activists came face-to-face with Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, whom they called a “tyrant” for his opposition to open carry.
“You can walk outside now,” Nevarez is heard saying. “You’re not welcome here.”
Conservative lawmakers have filed several bills aimed at making Texas’ gun laws more permissive ahead of this year’s session. A handful of bills like Stickland’s have been filed, as have pieces of legislation to allow licensed open carry of handguns, and to allow people to concealed carry at more places, including sporting events and school board meetings.