Texas Lawmaker Confronted By Gun Rights Group Gets Security

A House Democrat has been provided a security detail as part of the fallout from a tense Texas Capitol confrontation between the lawmaker and gun rights activists, whom more conservative state politicians urged to soften some of their rhetoric.

Rep. Poncho Nevarez said he didn't ask for the Texas Department of Public Safety officers that were assigned to him and his family in Eagle Pass near the Mexico border, but was glad they were around.

DPS declined to comment.

"It's hard to assess your own security sometimes, to be able to tell what's what," Nevarez said in an interview in his office, where a gun in a zipped leather case lay on his desk. Down the hall, two plainclothes officers stood watch, and later escorted Nevarez to the House chambers.

The detail was provided after members of a gun rights group visited Nevarez's office on Jan. 13 -- the opening day of Texas' legislative session. The lawmakers and the group Open Carry Tarrant County got into a heated exchange, captured on video, after the activists asked whether he supported a bill that would let Texas residents carry handguns openly without a permit. In the video, posted online, activists called Nevarez a "tyrant" and ignored his repeated requests to leave his office, even putting their foot in the door to keep it from closing.

The following day, the House passed new chamber rules making it easier for its members to get panic buttons in their offices that could summon help in case of an emergency. Telephones in legislators' offices already have a direct connection to DPS, Nevarez said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who oversees the Senate, said Tuesday that fighting for open carry legislation wasn't a priority, even though he pushed for it during his campaign.

The same activists who confronted Nevarez then created a Facebook event urging people to contact Republican lawmakers and voice their support for open carry bills.

Open Carry Tarrant County leader Kory Watkins posted on the page, "We the people are the power. Lets show them." He could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Nevarez told his security detail and Republican Rep. Jonathan Stickland, from Bedford in Tarrant County, about the social media posts. Stickland said he's advised Watkins to be more professional and selective with his words.

"I hope that he continues to fight for the issues, but in a positive way," he said. "I have told them that if they are interested in advancing their cause, there's a proper way to do it."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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