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Gun Rights Activists Cause Stir at Texas Capitol

The behavior of open-carry advocates trying to drum up votes for a measure repealing handgun licensing requirements prompted one lawmaker to escort them from his office Monday.

Senate Sergeant at Arms Rick DeLeon tells a group from Lone Star Gun Rights that they are not allowed in the secure back hall of the Senate on opening day Jan. 13, 2015.

An armed rally to protest gun laws saw about a dozen Second Amendment supporters toting rifles and antique revolvers in front of the Capitol gates throughout most of the 2015 legislative session's opening day.

But gun-rights activists who chose not to openly carry firearms so they could enter the Capitol building may have caused the greatest stir.

The behavior of open-carry advocates attempting to drum up votes for a measure by Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, repealing handgun licensing requirements prompted one lawmaker to escort them from his office 

State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, told The Texas Tribune he had to ask a group of open-carry advocates to leave his office after they grew increasingly confrontational when he said he was not supporting the bill. 

"I’m loath to throw somebody out. I’ve never had to do that, ever, and I hope I never have to do that again," he said. “It’s not a good way to talk about things; it’s not my way. I feel sorry for those folks who truly believe in the issue and don’t run around calling people names. I feel sorry for them because their cause is hurt."

video clip posted to Facebook by gun-rights activist Kory Watkins depicts the encounter. It opens with Nevárez saying he will not be voting for the legislation, which prompts several in the group to ask the lawmaker if he has read the Constitution. 

“You won’t be here very long, bro. We the people are coming to take Texas back,” says one. "You need to find a new job, bro."

Another adds: “As far as I’m concerned, you are a tyrant to the Constitution of the United States of America.”

After a few more exchanges, Nevárez rises and asks them to leave his office, saying he is going to call Capitol security. They then grow more hostile, at one point appearing to even block the lawmaker from closing the door.

Watkins, a member of the gun-rights group Open Carry Tarrant County, said he dropped by the offices of all 181 legislators to deliver petitions supporting Stickland’s measure. Of the lawmakers they visited, he said, Nevárez was the only one who reacted in that way. 

“He was very rude to us, very sarcastic, definitely didn’t care what we had to say,” he said. "Everything was very good until we went into that office — a lot of respect from others, even if they didn’t support the cause, they still were very respectful."

Fellow gun-rights activist CJ Grisham said he initially accompanied the group as they stopped by Capitol offices, but left before they reached Nevárez because he disagreed with how they were interacting with lawmakers.

“I just can’t believe the utter lack of professionalism, tact and, really, common courtesy that I saw today,” Grisham said. “It was intimidation, it was talking down, it was speaking over, it was childishness, and it did absolutely zero to even engage in conversation.”

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Politics 84th Legislative Session Guns In Texas