Panic Button: Lawmakers push safety after incident involving gun advocates is caught on camera
AUSTIN, Texas - On the first day of the 84th Legislative session, Democratic Representative Poncho Nevarez from Eagle Pass hadn't even been down on the floor for the swearing-in ceremony yet... when members of Open Carry Tarrant County came into his office to get his support for HB 195, a "Constitutional Carry" bill.
"When I told the gentlemen that the way the legislation was written, I would not vote for it...they kind of became unhinged," Nevarez said.
"As far as I'm concerned, you're a tyrant to the constitution," a voice can be heard in a viral video taken of the incident.
That's when Nevarez asked them to leave.
But the voice behind the camera, Kory Watkins, wasn't done yet. He put his foot in the door to prevent Nevarez from closing it.
"I'm a big boy in the sense that that kind of stuff kind of...it's water off a duck's back. But I think I felt...my guests, certainly my family and children were somewhat uneasy about what was going on," Nevarez said.
We spoke with Watkins by phone who doesn't regret a second.
"People need to start standing up for their rights," Watkins said.
Watkins says it was him that put his foot in the door.
"I just wanted to have one last say of 'Read the Constitution' and be about my way. I didn't do anything you know...unruly or anything," Watkins said.
C.J. Grisham is with Open Carry Texas. He wants to assure everyone his group has nothing to do with Open Carry Tarrant County.
"I was appalled! I was extremely appalled," Grisham said.
Grisham says he had walked with those guys to a few offices before realizing he didn't want to be seen with them.
"The point was when we had a Republican member who just hadn't read the bill yet. All he said was 'Hey I support gun rights but I haven't read the bill yet' and then they were rude to that guy," Grisham said.
Justin Delosh with Lone Star Gun Rights has his own video to show...exchanges with lawmakers where the situation stayed respectful.
"We peacefully dropped off 15,000 petitions yesterday and we visited with all 181 legislators with no incident. Even if they didn't agree with our issue, they still politely took our petitions," Delosh said.
Grisham says there's a right way and a wrong way to deal with people.
"Kory lacks that tact, he lacks that finesse in understanding of how to deal with legislators and get legislation passed. You don't just shove a piece of paper in their face and say 'support this or we're gonna berate you for the next 20 minutes,'" Grisham said.
"I have actually heard different. I have heard nothing but positive thoughts of...50-something friend requests in the past couple of hours, all kinds of good messages coming my way," Watkins said.
On Wednesday, the house amended a routine administration bill that gives lawmakers more discretion about who can come and go...and also the option to put in a panic button.
As for Navarez who has received physical threats since what happened Tuesday...he can see the benefit.
"I don't think it's a bad idea, I mean I think that there might be a situation where we need...we need the DPS to come quick," he said.
"Sounds like they're a bunch of cowards running from liberty," said Watkins.
San Antonio Democratic Rep Trey Martinez Fischer sponsored the amendment to allow for panic buttons today.
He believes some lawmakers already have them. But this will make sure any house member can request one and it's expected to be easier to pay for as well.