Merriam Webster definition of "terrorism": The use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.
I've been blogging here at The Huffington Post for quite some time about the threat of insurrectionism in the pro-gun movement. Typically, pro-gun activists are coy when confronted about their perverted belief that the Second Amendment provides an individual right to shoot and kill government officials in response to perceived "tyranny." But last week, a threat that is so often implicit was made perfectly explicit by a leader in Texas' open-carry movement.
On Feb. 4 Kory Watkins of Open Carry Tarrant County took to Facebook to decry reports that Texas Senate leaders are unlikely to approve legislation this session that would allow individuals to openly carry handguns in public without a permit (currently, only long guns can be carried in such a manner). This doesn't sit well with Watkins, who posted a chilling video in which he declared:
I don't think they want to mess with us too much longer. They better start giving us our rights or this peaceful non-cooperation stuff is gonna be gamed up. We're going to step it up a notch. I think here in Texas we're tired of jacking around with people in suits who think that they can take away freedoms in the name of safety ... We should be demanding [Texas legislators] give us our rights back, or it's punishable by death. Treason. You understand how serious this is, Texas? We need to start sticking more than foots in doors. This is treason against the American people. You don't sell my rights back to me? You're going to find trouble.
Needless to say, there is good reason that Texas legislators are considering only allowing the open carry of handguns with a permit or not at all. Texas State Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican who chairs the State Affairs Committee, said that "she was heeding concerns from law enforcement and constituents that allowing unlicensed open carry [of handguns] 'could create some chaos in an ordered society.'" Those concerns have arisen because individuals carrying long guns in public have engaged in aggressive and dangerous behavior, confronting and harassing police on the streets during the discharge of their duties. You might also recall a tense encounter that occurred last month in the office of Texas State Rep. Poncho Nevárez (D-74th) when Watkins and other pro-gun activists stopped by to visit. Nevárez and his family received so many death threats in the wake of that incident that Texas Department of Public Safety officers have now been assigned to guard him.
Watkins, Open Carry Texas leader C.J. Grisham and others have criminal records stemming from this type of behavior, and there is speculation that they might not be able to meet the requirements necessary to obtain an open-carry permit for handguns if a new law requires it.
We need to stop treating pro-gun extremists with kid gloves and acknowledge a few simple truths:
1) Threats like the ones made by Watkins are acts of domestic terrorism. Their purpose is to intimidate legislators and make them fear for their lives if they vote for sensible measures to reduce gun violence. This is the dictionary definition of terrorism, and it should be treated as such.
2) Individuals like Kory Watkins are the reason we have gun laws in this country. If we are looking for a case study in dangerousness, we have it right here. Watkins has an arrest record that involves armed, aggressive behavior; he has repeatedly made it clear that he views political violence as a legitimate alternative; he appears to be under the influence in his video, and Grisham reports that he "reeked of weed" during the confrontation in Nevárez's office. Watkins bemoans the proposed permitting system for open carriers in Texas as a "tax" that is fraudulently promoted as being required for the public's safety. But Watkins himself is living, breathing proof of why it is absolutely critical to screen individuals before they buy guns and carry them in public around our families.
3) The modern pro-gun movement, led by the National Rifle Association, does not embrace our Constitution. They consider the representative democracy it creates to be mob rule and have little or no patience for the mutual obligations established by the document.
I am struck by Watkins' insistence that they have an individual right to determine what laws in our country are constitutional or not. Anyone with a basic grasp of civics understands that it is the role of our courts to make such determinations under the Constitution. It is rather ridiculous to watch Watkins ramble on about what constitutes treason when Article 3, Section 3 of our Constitution specifically states that "treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." I know Watkins dislikes the democratic process, but passing a law regulating firearms hardly constitutes treason.
Despite the lip service they pay to the democratic institutions established by our Constitution, pro-gun activists like Watkins view themselves as judge, jury and executioner. They willfully ignore Article 1, Section 8, which states that the purpose of the militia is to "suppress Insurrections," not to foment them. Our founders did not take kindly to individuals who thought their guns placed them above the rule of law, a fact learned the hard way by participants in Shays' Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion.
I am reminded of a comment from Philip Van Cleave, the leader of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who told his members, "There's the 'cold, dead fingers' option, but I'd prefer not to have to exercise that one if I can avoid it with political activism, wouldn't you?" Their commitment to democracy is only provisional. They endure it at their convenience. If they do not ultimately get their way through the vote, they are more than ready to kill their fellow Americans and establish the system they truly want to see in this country: anarchy, where might makes right and you're only as politically equal as the firepower you can bring to bear at any given moment.
4) Pro-gun activists mean what they say and are fully capable of carrying out acts of horrific violence. It's time to start taking these people at their word when they tell us they are preparing to kill us. They mean it, and they are heavily armed. When we try to ignore these threats or sweep them under the rug, as we did with the Bundy crisis, we only embolden insurrectionists and ensure future violence. That's why two police officers were brutally murdered in a pizzeria on June 8, 2014.
And let's not forget that an Open Carry Texas/Open Carry Tarrant County member is currently awaiting trial for shooting and killing her estranged husband and his 20-year-old daughter in cold blood.
Joan Huffman is not the only Texas Republican who is now realizing that insurrectionism is a prescription for "chaos." Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the Texas Tribune on Thursday that he's "not necessarily all that fond of this open carry concept" and added that those who carry guns in public should be "appropriately backgrounded, appropriately vetted, appropriately trained." Former Texas Land Commissioner/State Sen. Jerry Patterson -- who sponsored the state's concealed-handgun law in 1995 -- said that open-carry legislation "has been pushed off the rails by the nut jobs." And State Sen. Charles Perry pointed out to The Chad Hasty Show that "some of the folks ... that are coming in with intimidating tactics have issues in their background that they can't get a CHL [concealed-handgun license]. So there's always more than one agenda that's apparent."
It's amazing how the threat of death can clarify your thinking on firearms regulation.
Perhaps it is finally time for the Grand Old Party to return to its law-and-order roots and reject wanton criminality in the guise of patriotism. In the wake of recent threats, the state's elected officials should consider very carefully whether it is wise to allow individuals to purchase guns and carry them in public without so much as a background check to determine if a person has any criminal or mental-health disqualifications. Texas might also want to take a look at the reciprocity agreements they currently have with other states concerning concealed handgun carrying, and cancel those agreements when states fail to meet Texas standards for screening and training.
The threat here is real -- and bloodshed will be the inevitable result if individuals like Watkins are coddled by authorities and treated as engaging in legitimate, democratic debate. They are not.