In an online video Wednesday, a gun-rights activist pushing for legislation allowing Texans to openly carry handguns tells state legislators that “treason is punishable by death.”
In the four-minute video, Watkins, 31, says: “We should be demanding these people give us our rights back, or it’s punishable by death. Treason. Do you understand how serious this is, Texas?”
The Texas Constitution says a person can be convicted of treason only for waging war or supporting enemies of the state.
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Watkins tells viewers to do “more than foots in doors.” He was apparently referring to his confrontation with Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevarez at the Texas Capitol on Jan. 13, during which a gun-rights activist put his foot in a door to keep it from closing.
Watkins has been a vocal advocate of legislation to allow open carry, something prohibited in Texas almost since the Civil War.
The measure seemed primed to pass this year in the Republican-controlled Legislature, with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick pledging to “fight for open carry.”
On the first day of the session, Watkins and other activists had a heated exchange with Nevarez in his office. Soon after, the Texas Department of Public Safety assigned a security detail to Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass.
The confrontation raised tensions around open carry. Patrick, who oversees the flow of legislation in the Senate, suggested last week that the issue wasn’t a priority in the upper chamber — only to release a subsequent statement reversing himself. That prompted a meeting between Watkins and Patrick’s senior staff.
On Wednesday, Patrick’s spokesman Alejandro Garcia declined to comment.
Watkins later took to Facebook to explain the video, saying he removed it “because I thought there were those that would intentionally misinterpret my words.”
“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,” Watkins wrote. “In this video I referred to treason, and the fact that the penalty for treason was death. My intent was to show that our founders took treason very seriously.
“I love the constitution dearly, and the constitution is very clear on the process for convicting someone for treason, I was obviously not calling for such a process, nor was I threatening anyone. I simply wished to point out the seriousness of the constitution,” he added.
But Nevarez’s chief of staff said he took the video seriously and forwarded it to DPS, which declined to comment.
Claire Larson, a former rifle instructor and the leader of the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, issued a statement saying Watkins threatened the lives of legislators.
She urged lawmakers to “take these threats seriously too, respect the legislative process, and oppose the expansion of open carry in our state.”
This report includes material from the Houston Chronicle.