In a video posted then deleted from his Facebook page, the leader of a Texas open carry advocacy group, Open Carry Tarrant County, warns state legislators that voting against a controversial new gun law may be punishable by death.
“Texans, are you going to go away, and settle for the low-hanging fruit that your masters are putting on the tree for you?” he asks, referring to other open carry bills being considered that would require gun owners to have a license in order to carry handguns in public places.
Watkins and his group support what they refer to as “constitutional carry,” written into their preferred bill HB195, a measure that they and other open carry groups supported by visiting legislators’ offices at the Capitol last month. At least two other bills have also been filed addressing the states 125-year open carry handgun ban.
During that visit, Watkins had an altercation with Rep. Poncho Nevarez, who opposes HB195. Watkins called the lawmaker "a tyrant to the Constitution" and refused to leave Nevarez’s office, holding his foot in the door to keep it from closing.
As a result of the confrontation, the Texas House voted to install panic buttons and voted for the authority to eject hostile constituents from their offices.
Watkins, though controversial in the state and even among different open carry factions, has found legitimacy with a recent meeting at the capitol. After Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick angered gun activists by calling the open carry issue a low priority for the legislative session, members of his senior staff hosted Watkins for a meeting in his office. Watkins called last week’s sit-down “positive,” and posted a smiling selfie during the meeting.
In the now removed video, Watkins says, “Texans I'm tired of jacking around. I’m tired of playing politically correct games. I'm tired of saying, “Well this is chess and we gotta take this slowly. No, no, no, no. This isn't a game, okay? This is reality and these are our rights that they're playing with okay? And I don't know if they forgot what their duty is, but it's to protect the Constitution. And let me remind you going against the constitution is treason. And my friend, that is punishable by death.
He goes on, “We're not playing around I don't think they wanna mess with us too much longer. They better start giving us our rights or this peaceful noncooperation stuff is gonna be gamed up. We're gonna step it up a notch…We need to start sticking more than foots [sic] in doors.”
He posted the video to his page with the caption, “Treason is a serious offense and is punishable by death.”
Watkins didn’t reply to a request for further explanation. After this was published, Watkins responded on his Facebook, explaining that his words had been misrepresented. It read in part, "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. When I speak of 'stepping it up a notch' mean within the boundaries of 'peaceful non-cooperation'. Instead of just a foot in the door. perhaps we need "sit ins" chanting 'hell no we won't go'."