The Texas House approved rules to install panic buttons and eject hostile members of the public from their offices Wednesday, following a confrontation between lawmakers and open carry advocates visiting the statehouse on 2015’s opening day, The Houston Chronicle reported.
“I think that public servants and members of the public ought to feel safe and secure when they come to the Capitol,” Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the measure’s sponsor, told the newspaper. “That being said, it came to my attention there was some disagreement as to whether members have to accommodate individuals or groups that are acting in a threatening or belligerent manner.”
The amendment would allow a house member and their staff to control access by the public to their offices. If a house member decides to install a panic button, he or she does so out of their own pocket, according to the measure’s text.
The change in rules was inspired after 15 to 20 members of Open Carry Tarrant County visited several house members who said the group hassled them and their staff. At least one of the confrontations was caught on video.
The video shows the confrontation turn hostile after a member of the gun group asks Rep. Poncho Nevarez, who represents House District 74 (west Texas), if he’ll vote in favor of the measure and he responds that he won’t.
Group members then call him a tyrant and tell him to read the constitution. Nevarez asks them to leave his office, but they resist, tell him not to touch them and to leave their state. Near the end Nevarez tries to shut the door, but a member of the gun group wedges his foot between the door and the frame.
In response to the measure, the group’s leader Kory Watkins, who is known for filming policemen while on scene, told the newspaper, “We need a panic button for people who don’t obey their oath to Constitution.”
Watkins’ group was part of an open carry rally at the Capitol Tuesday to urge lawmakers to support House Bill 195, a measure that would undo the state’s ban on the open carry of handguns.
Political opponents, like Moms Demand Action, were quick to comment on the news of installing panic buttons.
“The behavior of the open carry supporters yesterday is deplorable and should be a wake-up call to legislators that this type of extreme behavior is not welcome in Texas,” the gun control group’s founder, Shannon Watts, said in a statement.
In response to the commentary, president of Open Carry Texas, the lead group in the open carry movement, CJ Grisham criticized MDA.
“The Moms know they can’t win with their ideas, so their goal now is to simply attempt to discredit the movement. Unfortunately, there are people within this movement that seem to have the same goal based on their immature and unprofessional conduct,” Grisham said. “Shannon Watts need to clean her house before commenting on what’s dirty in ours.”