Bud Kennedy

May 6, 2014

Open-carry marchers: armed and aiming to change Texas

Open Carry Tarrant County’s most prominent spokesman calls for doing away with handgun licenses and laws.

Turns out our local open-carry gun hobbyists aren’t just trying to change the open part.

It’s the law they really want changed — by eliminating all rules and limits on when, where and which Texans carry guns.

Mansfield Republican Kory Watkins, a leader in open-carry groups and also a candidate for the Mansfield school board, said so this week to KTVT/Channel 11.

In an interview taped and posted to Watkins’ ustream.tv website, he said Open Carry Tarrant County marchers want “no license, no regulations” on the carrying of firearms.

Puffed up and self-important, he quoted the Constitution: “The Second Amendment says ‘shall not be infringed.’ ”

If doing away with all gun laws seems extreme — surprise: It’s in the state Republican platform.

Twenty years after Gov. George W. Bush and Texas lawmakers first allowed qualified and licensed gun owners to carry a concealed weapon, that is no longer good enough for a new generation trying to out-conservative the old.

For months now, Watkins, 30, a bartender, has joined small gatherings of customers carrying rifles, shotguns and antique pistols at dinner in an Arlington pizza restaurant.

Their first events didn’t draw much attention. When Texans see a group with rifles and shotguns, we figure they got lost on the way to the deer lease.

But when the marchers — originally Come and Take It Texas, now Open Carry Tarrant County — ran afoul of Arlington’s law banning exchanges of literature or merchandise at stoplights, they landed on the front page.

Watkins said his goal is to “educate people.”

Even Texas’ handgun license is an “infringement,” he said: “We should not have to ask the government for permission.”

In his campaign against incumbent school Trustee Danny Baas, a police officer, Watkins wants to arm teachers. He also rejects federal funding for the district as unconstitutional.

Open Carry Tarrant County’s latest adventure came in Fort Worth on Thursday, when the group went to a fast-food restaurant for drinks before a march at a nearby home improvement store on the South Freeway.

Watkins and other marchers disagree with a Fort Worth police report that said a fearful worker hid in the freezer, and they disagree with news reports that Temple-based Open Carry Texas has split with the local group.

The marchers promise more local rallies, including an event May 31 in North Richland Hills.

They promise to uphold all laws.

Until they do away with them.

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