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A ‘constitutional carry’ bill is dead in Texas after gun activist’s ‘intimidation’ at homes

This is not the year to weaken Texas’ gun laws.

After two of the worst mass shootings in American history — one in a church near San Antonio and another in a high school near Houston — even the normally gun-happy Texas Legislature is not inclined to take the next step and let Texans freely carry handguns without a state permit.

This bit of political reality is somehow lost on Texas’ libertarian gun-rights activists, who have once again proven themselves expert marksmen when the target is their own foot.

After telling activists “It is critical to keep the pressure on (Texas House Speaker Dennis) Bonnen” for the right to permitless carry, the leader of Dallas-based Texas Gun Rights went door-knocking with fliers for “constitutional carry” in Bonnen’s home Angleton neighborhood.

He went to Bonnen’s house March 26 while the speaker was in Austin.

Result: a Thursday local newspaper headline “Bonnen accuses group of intimidation tactic.”

Bonnen’s wife, Kim, wasn’t home. (A teenage son was.)

But she said the idea of an activist “showing up with a T-shirt with a machine gun on it” was “freaking me out. … This cannot become how we advocate.”

Police groups already opposed permitless carry because then officers wouldn’t have probable cause to check out someone with a handgun.

By week’s end, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, a Ron Paul-style libertarian Republican from Bedford, was announcing that his bill legalizing permitless carry was “dead.”

Bonnen had already said so.

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Chris McNutt of Texas Gun Rights posed in the neighborhood of state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, left, and Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton Texas Gun Rights

Before going to Bonnen’s house, Texas Gun Rights director Chris McNutt of Allen first paid a home visit to state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo and state Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock, and to their neighbors.

So when he went to Bonnen’s, he never made it to the door. Texas Department of Public Safety troopers intercepted him and carried the flier to the door, he said.

McNutt accused Bonnen of “fabricating a media hit” against him by describing his handing out fliers in home neighborhoods as intimidation.

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Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s complaint about a libertarian gun-rights group made Page One news in his hometown paper. thefacts.com

The leader of another activist group, CJ Grisham of Temple-based Open Carry Texas, said Bonnen is “trying to kill the gun-rights movement.”

Understand, these activists are not on the same side as the National Rifle Association. In the Texas Legislature, the NRA is the establishment.

According to its most recent finance report, the Ron Paul-affiliated Texas Gun Rights group is mostly funded by the Colorado-based National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), which opposes any government licensing, regulation, qualifications, background checks or restriction of guns, weapons or ammunition at all — “the way our Founders intended.”

(Some see the U.S. Constitution as God-inspired and the Second Amendment as godly gun law, allowing legal gun owners to carry anytime.)

In 2015, conservative radio talk host Mark Levin described the NAGR as “a little crazy group … just a little nutjob group.”

Texas Gun Rights posted this sketch rendering of now-House Speaker Dennis Bonnen talking to state Rep. Jonathan Stickland in May 2017 during the last session of the Texas Legislature. The original photo was taken by Marjorie Kamys Cotera for the Texas Tribune. Texas Gun Rights

Stickland, Hurst-Euless-Bedford’s man in Austin, has won an NAGR “Freedom Award.”

He fought for unlicensed-carry in 2015 and 2017 along with then-state Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, a longtime Ron and Rand Paul donor and supporter..

For about a year, McNutt was a deputy district director for Huffines.

“I can’t endorse tactics like that,” Huffines said Friday.

“That’s uncalled-for. There shouldn’t be anything like that.”

But he also said permitless carry in Texas is “just a matter of time.”

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland issued a video statement from Austin calling for a halt to the tactics. facebook.com/votejs

Stickland had a bumpy week.

He was also the only lawmaker on the losing side of a 148-1 vote for a heralded new school finance plan.

In his video to gun rights activists, Stickland said he was “saddened” by McNutt’s tactics.

“There is a right way and a wrong way to influence the legislative process,” Stickland said. “ … It is never OK or helpful to your cause to curse out their staff. It is never OK to target their homes or personal businesses when you know they are not in town.”

This lesson should have been learned four years ago.

In 2015, gun activists went to Austin, bullied and menaced lawmakers in their Capitol offices and refused to leave state Rep. Poncho Nevárez’s office.

Four years later, Nevárez is the chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee hearing gun bills.

Or not hearing them.

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