Bud Kennedy

Open-carry activists not so open about criminal past

Open Carry Tarrant County leader Kory Watkins of Mansfield was not eligible for a Texas handgun permit.
Open Carry Tarrant County leader Kory Watkins of Mansfield was not eligible for a Texas handgun permit. Associated Press archives

There’s a reason some of the loudest activists want Texas to do away with handgun licenses.

Their past crimes mean they can’t get one.

One Houston activist arrested Thursday outside a Texas Capitol hearing has a long criminal record, including convictions for deadly conduct, criminal mischief and drunken driving, the Houston Chronicle reported Saturday.

In Tarrant County, open-carry protest leader Kory Watkins’ extensive record of misdemeanor arrests includes a guilty plea in a 2000 North Richland Hills theft.

Watkins, then 17, was one of three teenagers caught with two 15-inch subwoofer speakers and 44 CDs stolen from a pickup on Southgate Drive, according to North Richland Hills police records.

Today, he is an elected Republican precinct chairman in Mansfield and an outspoken activist for “constitutional carry” of handguns, meaning without a license.

But since his guilty plea in the Class A misdemeanor, Watkins had been ineligible for Texas’ license.

Depending on his other misdemeanors, Watkins might be eligible by now or in another state. Mostly, though, he has said that he considers licenses an unjust interference with what he calls his “God-given rights.”

Fifteen years before his threats and menacing behavior shocked the Texas Capitol into installing panic buttons, Watkins was a Keller teen with a burglary tool.

He was riding in the front seat of a Ford Explorer when police stopped it on Grapevine Highway minutes after a Dodge pickup’s passenger window was broken.

According to the police report: “While searching Watkins … [the officer] found a piece of porcelain from a sparkplug in his left front pants pocket.”

Police found the speakers and CDs.

In the glove box in front of Watkins, police found a hand-held radio, a tool case with eight screwdrivers and a container with more such porcelain, “commonly used to break out windows when burglarizing vehicles,” quoting the report.

The other two boys were juveniles, according to the report. They gave audio statements confessing the burglary.

Watkins pleaded guilty and accepted an 18-month probation and deferred adjudication, according to county records.

Two years later, the case was wiped from his official record after he successfully completed probation.

But even the deferred adjudication disqualified him as a “good Texan” eligible to carry a handgun.

Frankly, I’m not sure why this hasn’t come up. Watkins’ opponent published it last year during the election.

With campaign support from fellow Ron Paul delegates in the county party, Watkins upset incumbent Sherri Heinzman and won Precinct 2360 by 57 votes.

On Thursday, all eyes were on Watkins as he told a Senate committee that if lawmakers “go against my God-given rights, I will continue to walk around with an AK-47.”

Outside, Open Carry Texas chapter leader Travis Kuenstler, 34, was arrested by troopers at the Capitol entrance and will face a charge of criminal trespass. Witnesses said troopers had warned him not to come in with what appears in amateur videos to be a plastic toy gun.

The Chronicle identified Kuenstler, 34, as a Marine with arrests including a 2008 case involving possession of an amphetamine. Kuenstler spent 60 days in jail on the deadly conduct charge, the newspaper said.

Anyone can speak at the Capitol, regardless of criminal past.

But some deserve less attention.

         

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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