Gun activists ratchet up pressure on House Speaker over ‘Constitutional carry’

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A flare-up between gun rights advocates pushing for the unlicensed carry of handguns and the Speaker of the Texas House took another turn Tuesday.

Chris McNutt, the executive director of Texas Gun Rights, joined with the President and lawyer for the National Association for Gun Rights, to “demand an apology” and a vote on the gun policy known as “Constitutional carry” from Speaker of the House, Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton.

McNutt says his name was “dragged through the mud” as Speaker Bonnen described a confrontation at a GOP fundraiser and an encounter outside Bonnen’s home with DPS troopers. McNutt says he was advocating for “Constitutional carry” and that he commonly drops off mailers at the homes of lawmakers and their neighbors. 

Threatening possible legal action, the groups held a press conference Tuesday at a downtown Austin hotel where they released somewhat controversial DPS body camera footage showing DPS troopers encountering McNutt at Bonnen’s Houston-area home in early April.

McNutt traveled to the homes of two other prominent Republican leaders in the Texas House to leave fliers supporting constitutional carry on their doors while the lawmakers were in Austin voting on the Texas budget. 

“I saw DPS troopers parked in front of his House. I wasn’t intercepted, detained, arrested, anything like that. I actually just told them what I was doing,” said McNutt. “They offered to place the flyer on the Speaker’s door for me. I never even stepped foot on the Speakers property.”

McNutt, Dudley Brown, president of the National Association for Gun Rights, and their lawyer Jess Binnall, say they’re looking into suing Bonnen for misusing the DPS troopers that met McNutt outside Bonnen’s home. 

Bonnen requested DPS security at his home because he says McNutt traveled to the homes of the two other lawmakers — Four Price of Amarillo and Dustin Burrows of Lubbock — and saw social media comments on McNutt’s Facebook posts threatening his life. The posts were McNutt’s. The threats did not come from McNutt himself. McNutt says he was not armed when he met the troopers outside Bonnen’s home.

However, Bonnen felt this was the latest attempt at harassment and actions that crosses the line on what is an acceptable way to advocate for policy positions. Gun advocates driving hundreds of miles to the doors of specific lawmakers when their wives and children could be home alone, Bonnen and his supporters say, is off-limits. 

Since then, the Bonnen-appointed chair of the Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee that “Constitutional carry” would need to pass, Democratic Rep. Poncho Nevarez, D-Eagle Pass, declared the measure dead because of McNutt’s actions.

After McNutt’s press conference, Bonnen world was unphased. 

“It appears someone has forgotten the law of holes. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” Bonnen’s press secretary, Cait Meisenheimer, told KXAN. 

This is the latest public spat in a short history of public beef. The Texas Tribune reported earlier this month that Speaker Bonnen thought he was “set up” after a prominent donor sat Bonnen and McNutt back to back at a Republican Party fundraiser. 

Bonnen asked McNutt not to return to his house when he was not home. McNutt handed Bonnen a letter, presumably outlining his support of Constitutional carry. A gun rights associate of McNutt handed Bonnen a Kool-Aid packet. It became heated and Bonnen left the fundraiser before his allotted speaking time. 

A companion to Constitutional carry has not been filed in the Texas Senate and all three of the GOP leaders — Bonnen, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Governor Greg Abbott — have not prioritized the measure, despite it being a legislative goal of the Republican Party of Texas.

Lawmakers have until the end of May to pass bills into law. 

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