As you may or may not know, I was arrested on March 16, 2013, while doing a 10-mile hike with my son to help him earn his Hiking Merit Badge. This is something that is highly encouraged by the Boy Scouts of America.
Boys often start projects at den meetings and finish them at home with the help of a parent. Such projects become the catalyst for parents and boys—often joined by siblings and friends—to interact with each other in an informal, relaxed way.
The Hiking Merit Badge is the only badge he needs to earn his Eagle Scout rank.
Halfway through our hike, we were stopped by a police officer on a farm road in rural Bell County, but still technically within City of Temple limits. Temple does not have any ordinances that prevent citizens from carrying rifles or shotguns openly. In fact, the city is prohibited from passing such laws anyway due to the state preemption law.
Here is the video that my son took of my arrest. I did not turn the camera on until the officer suddently drew his pistol on me and threw me into his vehicle for asking him why he was trying to disarm me. The dashcam footage will show this, but I can’t get more specific than that until after my trial on October 15. However, I was very cordial and non-confrontational until the officer tried to disarm me without warning, request, or other notice. I guess you’ll just have to take my word on that until the gag order is lifted on the full dashcam footage.
Many of you have probably already seen that video. It got a lot more attention than I ever thought it would and only released it when it appeared that the county was going to try and prevent me from doing so. Temple PD has been involved in several acts of bullying and overreaching their authority and I wanted them held accountable for such actions.
A few months after my arrest, I decided to harness the publicity my case was receiving and use it to make a positive change in Texas.
Texas law with regard to guns is…odd. Texas is not a traditional open carry state. I can legally carry a longarm (rifle, shotgun), but I cannot openly carry a pistol. I can only carry a pistol concealed with a “permit” from the government after meeting several requirement, including taking a class, paying a fee, and passing a background check. However, I can openly carry any pre-1899 antique or curio (or replica) pistol as long as it doesn’t use centerfire or rimfire ammunition. It must be a cap and ball, black powder pistol or rifle.
In June, I started my non-profit, Open Carry Texas, to educate Texans and law enforcement on the state’s gun laws. It was painfully obvious during my arrest that either the responding officers didn’t know the law or simply didn’t care. I wanted to ensure that not another single Texan had to endure what I’ve been enduring since my arrest. From our mission statement:
Open Carry Texas (OCT) is an organization dedicated to the safe and legal carry of firearms openly in the State of Texas in accordance with the United States and Texas Constitutions and applicable laws.
Our purpose is to 1) educate all Texans about their right to openly carry rifles and shotguns in a safe manner; 2) to condition Texans to feel safe around law-abiding citizens that choose to carry them; 3) encourage our elected officials to pass less restrictive open carry legislation; and (4) foster a cooperative relationship with local law enforcement in the furtherance of these goals with an eye towards preventing negative encounters.
Since OCT began, literally thousands of Texans have exercised their rights around the state to open carry in an effort to counter the media and political narrative that guns are bad. The anti-gun is well-organized and funded and we needed a grassroots group in Texas dedicated to actively protecting our gun rights in the state and pressure our representatives to pass less restrictive laws that infringe on those rights.
In fact, we have already enjoyed many positive achievements. The state attorney general is finally looking into how some police departments are interpretting our “disorderly conduct” law. Texas Penal Code Section 42.01(a)(8) states that, “A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly…displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm.” (emphasis mine)
Unfortunately, some LEOs have interpreted that to mean that if someone calls the police and says they are “alarmed” that the person carrying the gun is guilty of “disorderly conduct.” We believe, and I maintain, that this is bastardization of the statute. Merely carrying a rifle or shotgun in a legal fashion is not “calculated” to cause alarm. In fact, we say that we carry “in a manner calculated to educate.” So, we don’t even meet the legal definition of “intentionally” or “knowingly” carrying in a way calculated to alarm people.
If you’re from Texas, you are no doubt familiar with the Battle of Gonzalez on October 2, 1835.
Texians began crossing the river at about 7 pm. Less than half of the men were mounted, slowing their progress as they tracked the Mexican soldiers. A thick fog rolled in around midnight, further delaying them. At around 3 am, Texians reached the new Mexican camp. A dog barked at their approach, alerting the Mexican soldiers, who began to fire. The noise caused one of the Texian horses to panic and throw his rider, who suffered a bloody nose. Moore and his men hid in the thick trees until dawn. As they waited, some of the Texians raided a nearby field and snacked on watermelon.
With the darkness and fog, Mexican soldiers could not estimate how many men had surrounded them. They withdrew 300 yards (meters) to a nearby bluff. At about 6 am, Texians emerged from the trees and began firing at the Mexican soldiers. Lieutenant Gregorio Pérez counterattacked with 40 mounted soldiers. The Texians fell back to the trees and fired a volley, injuring a Mexican private. According to some accounts, the cannon fell out of the wagon upon the shot. Unable to safely maneuver among the trees, the Mexican horsemen returned to the bluff.
As the fog lifted, Castañeda sent Smither to request a meeting between the two commanders. Smither was promptly arrested by the Texans, who were suspicious of his presence among the Mexican soldiers. Nevertheless, Moore agreed to meet Castañeda. Moore explained that his followers no longer recognized the centralist government of Santa Anna and instead remained faithful to the Constitution of 1824, which Santa Anna had repudiated. Castañeda revealed that he shared their federalist leanings, but that he was honor-bound to follow orders.
As Moore returned to camp, the Texians raised a homemade white banner with an image of the cannon painted in black in the center, over the words “Come and Take It”. The makeshift flag evoked the American Revolutionary-era slogan “Don’t Tread on Me”. Texians then fired their cannon at the Mexican camp. Realizing that he was outnumbered and outgunned, Castañeda led his troops back to San Antonio de Béxar. The troops were gone before the Texians finished reloading. In his report to Ugartechea, Castañeda wrote “since the orders from your Lordship were for me to withdraw without compromising the honor of Mexican arms, I did so”.
We decided to sponsor a float at the parade commemerating the battle this year. However, the Chamber of Commerce and City Council was trying to ban us from having an open carry float. We decided to drop the idea and informed them that instead we would be setting up a booth and our members would just carry our weapons openly and hand out literature. The Chamber then tried to claim that since there will be beer tents at the event, the entire place was off limits to guns because of Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulations that prohibit weapons on TABC-licensed “premises”.
Naturally, we protested this unconstitutional and overreaching attempt to violate our rights. We were successful in getting the decision challenged and overturned. The Chief of Police even personally intervened to educate the City Council:
I have spoken with TABC regarding the licensed premises of Come and Take It beer tent. Because the event is not fenced in the license only pertains to the beer tent itself. People can buy beer and leave the tent. The 51% signs need to be posted on the posts of the beer tent. If the event was fenced the license would apply to the entire fenced area as explained by TABC.
The laws for carrying a weapon on a licensed premises only pertain to firearms as defined in the Texas Penal Code….(3) “Firearm” means any device designed, made, or adapted to expel a projectile through a barrel by using the energy generated by an explosion or burning substance or any device readily convertible to that use. Firearm does not include a firearm that may have, as an integral part, a folding knife blade or other characteristics of weapons made illegal by this chapter and that is:
(A) an antique or curio firearm manufactured before 1899; or
(B) a replica of an antique or curio firearm manufactured before 1899, but only if the replica does not use rim fire or center fire ammunition.
Timothy L. Crow
Chief of Police
City of Gonzales
San Antonio has been another area of contention. We had three members cited for “disorderly conduct” while enjoying a Starbucks coffee and sitting outside educating people about our mission.
San Antonio has an illegal ordinance that states, “It shall be unlawful for any person, other than duly authorized peace officers, to carry a loaded rifle or shotgun on any public street within the city or in a motor vehicle while the same is being operated on any public street within the city.” (Section 21-16) Texas has a state firearms preemption law that prevents cities or counties from enacting gun laws that are more restrictive than state law (Local Government Code Section 229.001).
After our guys were falsely charged, we announced Come And Take It San Antonio – A Line In The Sand that will take place on October 19th at the Alamo. We have obtained permission from Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson (also a candidate for Lieutenant Governor) to hold the event there and he will be a featured speaker. He also convinced San Antonio PD to stand down and encouraged them to support the event. We also have gotten word that the City Council is looking at repealing their illegal ordinance.
Finally, because of our efforts here in Texas, we’ve inspired several other open carry organizations in Washington, Arkansas and Oklahoma. We also coordinate with open carry groups in many other states, including Louisiana, Arizona, Florida, Colorado and Utah.
Our goal is not to shove our rights down people’s throats. We are not a civil disobedience organization. We do not seek confrontations with police officers. Our YouTube channel hosts videos of good and bad interactions with police officers in an effort to educate officers about what to do and what not to do. We try to get more positive interactions than negative ones, but most cops that do the right thing don’t want to be interviewed on camera.
We open carry because we believe that an armed society is a polite society. We believe that open carry actually DETERS crime, as opposed to responding to it. A criminal walking into a business may believe he can get away with his crime if he doesn’t see a gun in sight. So, the crime will have already been started before CCW holder can respond. However, if the criminal sees a bunch of people strapping defensive weapons on their person, he’s less likely to try anything and move along.
Again, my trial begins October 15th and I’ll provide an update at that time.