Updated: Apr 11, 2019
The Constitutional Carry Act of 2019 is dead, killed by the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dennis Bonnen (R-25). Bonnen intended to kill the bill, which has been the Number One Legislative Priority for the Republican Party of Texas for the past 7 years, from the opening gavel of the 86th Legislative Session, and his masterly-crafted plan was executed in the perfect way to provide cover for himself.
Let's Start From the Beginning:
Prior to session beginning, Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-92) pre-filed Constitutional Carry, where it became H.B. 357. Meanwhile, Dennis Bonnen was rallying support from House Republicans to secure his appointment as Speaker. Several Reps had cited promises Bonnen had made them as their reason for supporting him. When Session began, Bonnen was voted to be the next Speaker with a vote of 147-0, and not long afterwards, he began appointing committee assignments. Historically, gun bills like Constitutional Carry, had always gone to the Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, to which the self-professed "advocate for Texan’s 2nd Amendment Rights" appointed anti-gun Democrat, Poncho Nevarez (D-74), as Chairman. This was gun owner's first red flag of this session.
Not only was Rep. Nevarez anti-gun, but he was also involved in a scuffle on the House Floor two years ago against Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-115). Rep. Rinaldi threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on a group of protesters proclaiming that they were in the country illegally, he was assaulted on the House Floor by Rep. Ramon Romero, and threatened by Rep. Nevarez.
This seemed like a move to deliberately kill our bill, and we applied pressure to Speaker Bonnen by asking our members to call his office and voice their concerns with his appointment. Even Charles Cotton, an NRA Board member, lashed out at the Speaker for this move in a lengthy Facebook rant that opened by saying, "Newly elected Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Republican Dennis Bonnen, campaigned as a pro-Second Amendment candidate. However, actions speak far louder than words and we now see he lied." The Speaker ignored the statements of Charles Cotton, but focused instead on calling out "a small handful of gun rights fringe groups" in his own lengthy Facebook rant. This was without a doubt targeted at our organization, along with Texas Gun Rights, Open Carry Texas, and Gun Owners of America. He continued his chastising of us by saying, "I have an A Rating with the NRA and plan to keep it... The fact that some fringe groups can’t count to 5 for a 9 member committee is really not my problem."
The grassroots gun rights organizations began dialing back the pressure, but not because of Bonnen's Facebook post. Many things we had heard at the Capitol were that Rep. Nevarez had promised to give H.B. 357 a hearing, where constituents could testify their support or opposition to the bill. In good faith, we began just letting things be, and never issued any calls to action. As time went on, no notices for a hearing on H.B. 357 were being released, and the deadline of April 3rd was fast-approaching. In mid-March, all of the grassroots began applying pressure again, not to Rep. Nevarez, but to Speaker Bonnen.
From our view, applying pressure to Rep. Nevarez was a useless endeavor given that him killing the bill would have zero negative consequences from his constituents. While the Speaker does not technically have the power to force a Committee Chairman to bring a bill for a vote or a hearing, it is common knowledge that the Speaker can apply pressure to anyone if he so desires (after all, he did appoint Nevarez as Chairman). We began asking our members to call Speaker Bonnen's office and asking for him to make H.B. 357 a priority, and closed every post and email with a directive to "remember to be professional, and abstain from swearing." The pressure was working, as we received reports from the Capitol that Bonnen's Office was receiving hundreds of calls per day from grassroots gun rights members. At that point, instead of making us go away by pressuring the bill to get a floor vote, Speaker Bonnen waged war against us.
Bonnen's War on Gun Rights:
Chris McNutt is the Executive Director for Texas Gun Rights. TXGR is not affiliated with LSGR, rather they are the Texas affiliate of National Association for Gun Rights. We have worked closely with Chris, and know him very well on a personal level, so it is not uncommon for us to share our plans. Chris had told us that he was planning to place flyers in several neighborhoods in the districts of Rep. Four Price, Rep. Dustin Burrows, Speaker Bonnen, and their major donors. The flyer had very similar wording of our Facebook posts mentioned above. Below are screenshots from Chris' various Facebook livestreams where he explained exactly where he was and what he was doing.
Speaker Bonnen's neighborhood was hit last, and by this time, Rep. Burrows and Rep. Price had already been informed of the existence of the flyers. It was easy for them to know that Speaker Bonnen's neighborhood would be the next stop, so what happened next was clearly a trap. Speaker Bonnen had called for DPS protection at his home, and after a week, he contacted the news media with the "story" that a crazy gun rights activist had targeted his home and intimidated his family. The story carried by all of the national media outlets, like Fox News, said that Chris had "showed up to Bonnen’s home in Lake Jackson on Wednesday to question why the bill had stalled." This isn’t even close to the truth, and is clearly an attempt to use Chris as a scapegoat for killing Constitutional Carry, which Bonnen finally admitted to the Dallas Morning News, that he felt it was a "bad policy." (so much for him being an "advocate for Texan’s 2nd Amendment Rights").
Chris texted LSGR Founders Justin Delosh, AJ Postell, along with myself the day that he went to Speaker Bonnen's neighborhood explaining his "incident" with Texas State Troopers at his house. Here is the screenshot of that text, along with three screenshots from Chris’ phone showing timestamped GPS tracking of his location during the three days he was canvassing neighborhoods.
So where is the story portrayed by the media? All of the actual evidence proves only one thing; that Chris McNutt was putting pieces of paper on the front doors of houses in several key neighborhoods. Of course, Speaker Bonnen needed an excuse to kill Constitutional Carry, and unfortunately, Chris walked right into his trap. The media won't report on the actual facts of what happened, especially with the Speaker behind it. Bonnen told the media, "Threats and intimidation will never advance your issue," but there were exactly zero threats being issued from anyone. Not from Chris, and not from any of the thousands of people that called Bonnen's office. Open Carry Texas founder, CJ Grisham, happened to record a conversation he had prior to the "incident" with one of Bonnen's secretaries saying that no one had been rude to her while asking for the bill to be prioritized. It is a little hard to hear, but the conversation can be made out.
Coming Full Circle:
If there was a single disgusting act that a politician could pull, it would be exactly what Speaker Bonnen did. He never wanted H.B.357 to get out of committee because he never supported it. Due to its grassroots support, however, he needed cover and he got it by the most despicable means possible. He lied to everyone from the beginning of Session, and in the end, he attacked and scapegoated gun rights advocates, and used it as an excuse to kill the bill.
Of course, the NRA/TSRA won't see it this way. They have already come out pushing Bonnen's lie, and in a Facebook post by Speaker Bonnen, he affirms what we already knew from day one; he never has, and never will support the Number One Legislative Priority of the Republican Party of Texas. Citing a typical anti-gun talking point, Bonnen said that our goal was to push legislation that “would allow anyone - including criminals - to be able to carry a gun without a license and proper safety training.” This, of course, is another blatant lie, as our legislation clearly said “person not prohibited from possessing a firearm,” but the Speaker cannot be bothered with facts. His goal was to demonize Constitutional Carry, and the grassroots that advocate for it. He does not support the 2nd Amendment as he claims, because anyone who does cannot support requiring a person to obtain a permission slip from the State to exercise a natural right.
In the end, Bonnen was successful in one thing; killing our bill. His attempt to fracture the grassroots, however, was an abysmal failure. We are even more united now than we were before, and we will continue to do what we do best despite whatever lies the Speaker tells the media. He will retain his "A" rating from the NRA/TSRA, and we will keep political pressure on him without intimidation or threats of violence as we always have. The difference now is he will feel the full force of our influence from now until Constitutional Carry becomes law. We will not let him get away with scapegoating real advocates as his excuse for killing the single most pro-gun piece of legislation.
There isn't much we can do to get Constitutional Carry this session. It is true that time still exists for Bonnen to change his mind and do the right thing, but chances of that are slim. Keep calling Speaker Bonnen at 512-463-1000 and voice your disapproval of these sleazy tactics he has employed.
Following the close of session, we will be ramping up for the off-season, and your membership will help immensely. Become a member by clicking here for just $6 per month, and we promise you that 100% of the money we raise will go to ensuring Bonnen understands just how far on the wrong side of this issue he is. Lone Star Gun Rights and our members never forget the betrayals of those who swear to uphold our natural rights and lie. Speaker Bonnen is no exception.