A pro-Second Amendment group is up in arms after several of its members were ticketed recently while passing out pamphlets in a roadway.
On March 27, Open Carry Texas held a march near Lincoln Square in north Arlington. The group openly carries firearms during its demonstrations and passes out pamphlets containing the U.S. Constitution.
“When we’re out on our open carry walks, we’re there to educate the public and inform them on Second Amendment rights and our group,” said Kory Watkins, State Chapter Leader for Open Carry Texas.
During this particular march, group members walked out to drivers who were stopped at a traffic light to hand them materials.
“It just so happens that some people are stopped at the stoplight and they’re supporting us,” said Watkins. “They want our information, so they reach out the window and we hand it to them.”
A city ordinance prohibits anyone from entering a roadway to distribute materials.
The Arlington Police Department showed up after they received multiple calls from citizens who had concerns about the group.
Open Carry Texas recorded a video of their encounter with the officers. It shows two of their members being detained for violating that ordinance.
“It has nothing to do with the content of the literature,” said Lt. Chris Cook, spokesman for the Arlington Police Department. “They decided they were going to hand out literature by entering the roadway. That can create an unsafe condition not only for them, but for our motoring public.”
Cook said police met with members of Open Carry Texas before the demonstration and informed them of the ordinance.
“The officers remained professional,” said Cook. “They kept their honor and integrity by not creating a more volatile situation. They decided to document the violations in an offense report and issue the citations later. That’s what we did.”
Open Carry Texas believes the rule infringes on their First Amendment rights and they should not have been ticketed.
“I think they could have left us alone,” said Watkins. “There are other groups doing it. We’re not the only group doing it. It’s nothing new.”
Tuesday night, dozens of their members came to the Arlington City Council meeting to complain about the ordinance and ask city leaders to change it.
“They’re trying to make it a safety issue,” said Watkins. “But safety should never infringe upon my liberty or my freedom.”
Cook said the police department is currently meeting with the City Attorney’s Office to review the ordinance, but for the time being will continue to enforce it.
Watkins said he remains hopeful the city will change the ordinance.
“I have a feeling that they do want to work with us,” said Watkins. “We do have a lot of support on our side. And I think if they didn’t look at it, it’s only going to cause more frustration.”