Debate Over Weapons Heats Up in Arlington

Kory Watkins is a member of Open Carry Texas, a pro-gun rights group that often demonstrates with firearms in hand. Now, a microphone will be his weapon of choice as he speaks out against what he calls an attack on his freedoms by the City of Arlington.

“This is a big concern,” said Watkins. “It’s not just our group. It has to do with everybody in Arlington.”

Tuesday night, the Arlington City Council passed the first reading of two ordinances that have the group up in arms.

The first ordinance would put a blanket ban on all weapons and “simulated weapons” at government meetings.

The other would ban all weapons and any objects that resemble a weapon from public government meetings.

“We have many people from our group coming [to City Hall],” said Watkins.

Open Carry Texas complained to city leaders after members of its group were ticketed last month while passing out pamphlets to drivers near Lincoln Square. Arlington police said they were violating a city ordinance because they were going into the roadway to hand people the pamphlets, creating a potentially dangerous situation for themselves and motorists.

Police met with the group before that demonstration and explained the ordinance to them.

Watkins believes the rule is unconstitutional.

“We’ve seen many other individuals and organizations do the exact same thing,” said Watkins. “When we’re on an open carry walk and people ask for our information, we exchange it. It’s a mutual agreement between two citizens and we should have every right to do that.”

He also believes he should have been allowed to carry his black powder revolver into a recent city council meeting. Instead, he was stopped by police.

“Under Texas state law, it’s not counted as a firearm or anything of that nature,” said Watkins. “It’s actually an antique. So under the law, I’m allowed to bring it in there.”

State law prohibits people with concealed carry permits to bring a concealed firearm into a public meeting. Arlington police said the laws are more fuzzy on whether an old-fashioned gun is considered a firearm. During that particular incident, though, they said their officers had legitimate safety concerns because to them it looked like a loaded, working weapon.

The proposed ordinance would put a blanket ban on all weapons and “simulated weapons” at public meetings.

In an email to NBC 5, City Attorney Jay Doegey said they crafted the ordinance because “there is a realization that the presence of weapons has a chilling effect on citizens' willingness to attend and participate in the public meeting process.”

Despite vocal opposition, the first readings for both ordinances passed. They’ll have to pass a second reading at a later date before taking effect.

The final vote will be put on the May 13 agenda.

NBC 5's Bianca Castro contributed to this report.

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