SHARE

In a Home Depot parking lot near AT&T Stadium in Arlington, a small group of people, mostly in their mid- to late 20s, stand by pickup trucks filled with flags. It’s a Saturday afternoon in late September, and they’re gathering for another walk. Dressed in various kinds of shorts, khakis, t-shirts, and sport jerseys, some wearing hats, some with tattoos, they’d look like everyone else heading to the college football game if it weren’t for the rifles slung over their shoulders.

The rifles are loaded, one of the marchers assures. “But we make sure there are no bullets in the chamber.”

The group is part of Open Carry Tarrant County. Coordinator Kory Watkins had invited about 2,000 people via Facebook to attend the day’s march. About 40 said they’d come, and 15 have shown up.

22TRN119 Mosey(3) 300x250

Watkins, a tall, thin 31-year-old in an off-brand striped polo shirt, khaki shorts, and a white fedora, has strapped on a fluorescent safety vest and an AR-15, a magazine-fed weapon that looks like a machine gun.

The group, having heard a patriotic pep talk from Libertarian legislative candidate Robert Harris, form up with Texas flags and those of Open Carry Tarrant County to march two blocks to the busy intersection of Collins Street and Six Flags Drive to hand out literature.

Across the street, a camera tower used by the Arlington Police Department seems to watch the group and the long-haired straggler who carries flags that read “Come and Take It” and “Don’t Tread On Me.” There are no officers on hand and no indication of whether the cameras are actually filming the marchers.

Watkins and others say Open Carry Tarrant County members are just standing up for their constitutional rights. But their actions over the last year have outraged the Arlington City Council, the National Rifle Association, a mothers’ group, and at times even other Open Carry groups.

Open Carry Tarrant County is beginning to seem, at times, more interested in provoking police than in peacefully asserting their rights; many members also participate in North Texas Cop Block and Tarrant County Peaceful Streets Project, two groups that use cell phones to videotape police. Three Open Carry members were arrested in September while recording a routine traffic stop.

Little of that, except for the rifles, is on display on this afternoon.

“Remember, an armed society is a polite society,” says Harris, as the group starts toward the intersection.

 

********

It’s been more than a year since the Open Carry movement began in Texas, prompting groups of armed citizens to stand on street corners and wander through Wal-Marts and other public places to protest what they say are flaws in Texas’ gun laws. On a few occasions, they’ve lined up on freeway overpasses, displaying their guns and waving their flags.

The carrying of handguns in public has been regulated in Texas since 1871. A century later, when some other states began to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons, Texas legislators pushed for similar changes. But it wasn’t until 1995 that the Texas Legislature passed, and then-Gov. George W. Bush signed, a bill to allow the concealed carrying of weapons. Today, gun rights activists continue to push for more gun freedom.

Open Carry Tarrant County members believe carrying loaded rifles into restaurants helps build support for their cause.
Open Carry Tarrant County members believe carrying loaded rifles into restaurants helps build support for their cause.

Over the last several years, however, mass shootings have become all too common in the schools, workplaces, theaters, and restaurants of this country. An FBI report released in September confirmed mass shootings have risen drastically since 2000. The sight of people armed with semi-automatic weapons in public doesn’t make many Americans feel safe these days.

Another recent study found that in the United States there are 88 guns per 100 people and 10 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, rates higher than any other country studied. According to data collected by the United Nations, the U.S. gun murder rate is 20 times the average of countries like Israel, Chile, and Italy.

Army Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham, a decorated veteran of the Iraq conflict, understands the dangers facing Americans. He’s always carrying some kind of weapon whether concealed or openly. As a soldier (about to retire), he says, his weapon has become an extension of himself.

So he didn’t give it a second thought in March 2013, when he picked up his AR-15 for a hike with his son in the woods outside the Central Texas city of Temple. Snakes, mountain lions, and other dangers could be lurking in the deep woods. But Grisham’s problem turned out to be with a human, not a critter:  Alerted by a concerned citizen, a Temple police officer  stopped to ask Grisham why he was carrying that kind of weapon.

When Grisham’s answers didn’t satisfy him, the officer tried to take the gun away, and Grisham resisted. He was arrested and eventually convicted of interfering with the duties of a peace officer, a Class B misdemeanor. Along the way, his arrest became a rallying cry for gun rights in Texas. At one point more than 400 people turned out to support Grisham, carrying weapons and protest signs reminding people that carrying the semi-automatic guns is legal.

Kory Watkins heard about that rally and Grisham’s arrest and decided to join the movement. He formed his own local group with other activist friends, called Open Carry Tarrant County. They started carrying loaded assault weapons into places like Wal-Mart, Target, and Kroger, mimicking Grisham’s Open Carry Texas and handing out Open Carry Texas literature.

But Grisham says the Tarrant County group is not in line with what he’s trying to do with Open Carry Texas. The two groups promote the same ideal — passage of legislation to allow the open carrying of handguns — and they still sometimes conduct rallies together. In other ways they execute the mission quite differently.

Grisham’s group calls businesses and law enforcement to alert them to upcoming demonstrations. Watkins’ group takes loaded assault weapons into grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, and other businesses unannounced, frightening employees enough to make them call police and causing managers to enact their own gun ban policies.

Watkins says his group is trying to be ludicrous to make a point. “It’s like, ‘Hey, look, this is not cool. I mean, really? We can walk around with this, really? I mean, come on, this is ridiculous.’ ”

Not everyone finds it ridiculous. When Open Carry Tarrant County goes out to protest, calls from concerned citizens pour into police call centers across North Texas, reporting people carrying loaded assault rifles and looking very threatening.

“A man approached my car to give me literature with a giant gun in his hand,” reported one Arlington resident. “I don’t know if it [the gun] was real or not, but it freaked me out. I don’t oppose people’s right to carry, but I oppose the fact that they can wave their guns around at public intersections and frighten people.”

 

 ********

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. Lol. The data you people use to calculate such ignorance. The other countries don’t collect data on how many people the goverment kills. Guns protect us from them and allow you to write this stupid B.S.

  2. Tea Party Paranoids Tony (flimsy resume) Tinderholt and Kookie Konni (road rage) Burton are completely in favor of folks carrying large assault weapons in public. I can only hope that Burton is able to use some restraint if she runs into those dreaded local physicians and FWST “liberal” Op-Ed folks who are her sworn “enemies”–acording to her Facebook page. Tony apparently had a scream fest on behalf of the “open carry” folks while “addressing” the Arlington city council—Scary!

  3. As a gun owner of 40 years, I find the behavior of Watkins and his group completely irresponsible. What they do, while legal, paints responsible gun owners with the tar brush of extremists and marginalizes any real attempt made to extend gun rights, which by the way are the most liberal of any country in the world. These outlandish and outrages exhibitions by Watkins and his group serve no real purpose other than drawing attention to a group of socially inept people that under the guise of open carry are chasing their 15 minutes by scaring the hell out of innocents in businesses and on the street. They continually show how inconsiderate they are by refusing to ask permission from or notify the police or business of where they will be or when. Please keep your guns but at home, or the range, or on your deer lease just don’t carry them on the street even though you can. Because I can is the worst reason for doing anything.

    • Hey fed-up….think any of these deep thinkers by any chance , could possibly be, just maybe, somehow, kind of close to considering, maybe entertaining thoughs of being a Bagger or simply a greed-head Repug? Really, lets hear it. Don’t you know his Mama’s proud of him? Precious, really precious.

  4. For the record, the NRA appologized to Texas open carriers saying that an “ignorant staffer” condemned the movement. The NRA has subsequently supported our efforts to pass pistol open carry.

    So the NRA being outraged is such a far stretch of the truth it’s a blatant lie.

    • Outright lies and the NRA have a long, established history of going hand in hand.

      Actually that would be “handgun frickin’ everywhere in hand.”

  5. As a 50+ years firearm owner, I find that a community of people and their governments who cannot entrust each other with each others unalienable rights, nor wish protect each other right to act as they see fit, respect that they do so without causing harm, is a community that cannot be trusted at all.

    If their not killing anyone or obstructing any other man/woman rights, they are fine. Where as, the officers automatically step out of their uniform when arresting without true cause of harm, thus are acting illegally.

    The rule is this: Be cool, don’t be an a**hole, and your good.

    • Cops who torment and mistreat people do so because they enjoy their abuse. It has nothing to do with right or wrong, good or bad. They do what they do because they enjoy what they do. Many cops are wired differently than other folks and many of them would pay to have their jobs instead of being paid, if they had the money. They love their work. I have four close friends who are cops,three recently retired. We all went to high school together fifty years ago and still go hunting & fishing pretty often. We have to have cops, they are what they are, regular people with different likes and needs, just like crooks. There is not a nickles worth of difference between most of them. Cops are much more lucky than the crooks. It’s better to be lucky than it is to be smart, or a hard working, stand-up, decent human being. That is what one of them told me once, years ago. I thought he was right for a long time but I got over it.

  6. The coward Shannon Watts of momsdemand who blocks and deletes anyone not parroting her cause spreads lies. While running around with armed security she calls for Americans to be disarmed. She claims being a grassroots but is all Monsanto genetically engineered AstroTurf!! Our 2nd Amendment is inalienable and can’t be taken away from law abiding citizens. What will it take to get antigunners to realize it’s the criminals & gangs they should be focused on going after. Not pushing for more laws by definition criminals don’t obey.

  7. The coward Shannon Watts of momsdemand who blocks and deletes anyone not parroting her cause spreads lies. While running around with armed security she calls for Americans to be disarmed. She claims being a grassroots but is all Monsanto genetically engineered AstroTurf!! Our 2nd Amendment is inalienable and can’t be taken away from law abiding citizens. What will it take to get antigunners to realize it’s the criminals and gangs they should be focused on going after. Not pushing for more laws by definition criminals don’t obey.

  8. The coward Shannon Watts of momsdemand who blocks and deletes anyone not parroting her cause spreads lies. While running around with armed security she calls for Americans to be disarmed. She claims being a grassroots but is all Monsanto genetically engineered AstroTurf! Our Second Amendment is inalienable and can’t be taken away from law abiding citizens. What will it take to get antigunners to realize it’s the criminals and gangs they should be focused on going after. Not pushing for more laws by definition criminals don’t obey.

  9. The coward Shannon Watts of momsdemand who blocks and deletes anyone not parroting her cause spreads lies. While running around with armed security she calls for Americans to be disarmed. She claims being a grassroots but is all Monsanto genetically engineered AstroTurf. Our Second Amendment is inalienable and can’t be taken away from law abiding citizens. What will it take to get antigunners to realize it is the criminals and gangs they should be focused on going after. Not pushing for more laws by definition criminals do not obey.

  10. Daytripper, just because you post something 4 times doesn’t make you right it just makes you sound shrill and needy. Also how can a man made inorganic product be genetically engineered? What so many people forget is that the governments regulate large numbers of things for the common good. Yes I know the word regulate is a hot button word for some of you but it’s true none the less. This is done to protect the general public because some people and companies can not be trusted to do the right thing. History is full of examples of this. The problem is that Watkins and his group are causing harm when they show up carrying their long guns. It scares employees, children and their parents. That can not be casually dismissed. They are not be considerate to the public. I don’t mean that in some nanby pamby way but by not showing respect for others in the community in which they are demonstrating.

  11. Texas has legal concealed carry. Why does anyone need to openly carry a gun – rifle or pistol – into commercial areas? It makes no sense to most Texans – and we know guns, right? These folks are outliers and the Texas legislature needs to stop them. In fact, openly carrying long guns should be illegal in urban and commercial areas. It’s intended for hunting and rural living. These people are creating HUGE problems for not just every day people, but for business in this state. It needs to stop. Thanks for this piece.

  12. These folks need to be stopped. They’re awful for every day folks, as well as for business. The legislature needs to outlaw open carry of long guns in commercial and urban areas. Texans know that long guns in a store or at an intersection is RIDICULOUS. Open carry of pistols is not necessary because we have legal concealed carry. If you feel you need a gun when you’re out and about, do it like the rest of us – CHL.

  13. Those Tea Party candidates running for state offices i.e. Texas Legislature District 94–Tony Tinderholt and Senate district 10 –Konni Burton seem to think that supporting dangerous and unnecessary legislation for Open Carry is what the voters want. I can assure you, as a typical voter in these districts that I am offended at the immature embrace of this set of fringe characters. I would be very vociferous about any time wasted on such ridiculous legislation. The voters of Tarrant county deserve better. If one of these open carry people discharges a weapon in a public place accidently–especially a church or health care facility–I believe Tinderholt and Burton should be held legally responsible for the consequences.

  14. In Ohio, an open-carry state, “patriots” carry their AR-15s, AK-47s into stores, like the Walmart in Beavercreek, . all the time. The other customers have greeted these gun carriers – who all have happened to be white men in their 20s and 30s – with a knowing nod of the head, a salute, two thumbs up,”God Bless You,” “Don’t Tread on Me,” etc.,

    In August 2014, an unarmed 22 year old black man named John Crawford goes shopping at the same Walmart, selects a $43 Crossman plastic air rifle (pellet gun) off the shelf in the sporting goods dept, and carries it as he continues shopping. No one came up to him and thanked him for being an patriot like when white guys bring their loaded REAL semiautomatic rifles. Instead, someone called 911 about a black man at Walmart who had an assault rifle and was OBVIOUSLY UP TO NO GOOD. And he was aiming it at children. The police arrived and the official report states that Crawford was ordered to drop the weapon twice. After refusing to drop the weapon, and supposedly telling the police he would drop it only after he kills some crackers, a police sharpshooter fired a nonfatal shot at Crawford’s hand, making him drop the rifle, but Crawford dropped to the floor, picked up the rifle with the other hand, aimed it at the officers, and they had no choice but to open fire.

    The community staged a protest – all white people – protesting against any charges being filed against the white officers, who WOULD SUFFER ENOUGH knowing they were FORCED to kill a young family man who pointed a toy gun at them and refused to put it down. The grand jury decided the officers were justified in killing the man.

    The video was finally made public. All the details about refusing to drop the gun, killing “crackers,” having the gun shot out of his hand, picking it up and aiming it at the police DID NOT HAPPEN, but were put in the report to make the killing “justified.”. Crawford was killed TWO SECONDS after the police spotted him.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9FtNOV6Qhk

  15. Lug around “guns rights!”, “militia patriot!”, “tea party super hero!”, “just because I’m paranoid don’t mean I’m not out to shoot me!” banners or…
    simply wear similarly adorned apparel.

    Armed criminals in OC states thank gunnuts for the time-saving tip.

LEAVE A REPLY