Arlington Council bans guns at city meetings

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by TERESA WOODARD

WFAA

Posted on April 22, 2014 at 10:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 22 at 10:50 PM

ARLINGTON — They came with their weapons to Arlington City Hall on Tuesday night.

"It's an AK-47, a modified one, so it's not automatic," said Kory Watkins, displaying the gun he had strapped across his shoulder.

Watkins and others said they were just exercising the rights granted by the United States Constitution. He is a member of Open Carry Tarrant County, an organized group of gun rights activists who routinely demonstrate in public.

They carry their weapons while offering literature and copies of the Constitution to passing motorists.

"We've gone to so many other counties, we've never had so much disrespect as we have had with Arlington," said Mason Yancy, a 20-year-old member of the group who was ticketed at a demonstration a few weeks ago.

That demonstration prompted 911 calls from others who said they were uncomfortable with the guns on open display, and Yancy and others believe they were ticketed only because they were armed.

The group went before Arlington City Council two weeks ago to discuss their concerns. After that meeting, city staff drew up an ordinance that prohibits any pedestrian in a high-traffic area from soliciting donations from or offering any material to a car that is not parked.

"I just don't understand y'all's problem with free speech," one member of Open Carry Tarrant County told the Council as they debated the issue. Dozens of people held up copies of the Constitution as ordinance opponents spoke.

One woman who saw the group during a Friday demonstration at Lincoln Square, near Interstate 30 and Collins, spoke in favor of the ordinance.

"A man approached my car to give me literature with a giant gun in his hand," she said. "I don't know if it was real or not, but it freaked me out. I don't oppose people's right to carry. but I oppose that they can wave their guns around at busy intersections and frighten people."

Watkins said he'd like to engage people who are afraid in a conversation. "First and foremost, anybody's feelings does not triumph my rights," he said. "If we start wondering how people feel, we are going to be in a world of trouble trying to legislate morality."

Only one Council member, Robert Rivera, voted against the ordinance, citing concerns about free speech.

As it passed, members of Open Carry Tarrant County loudly yelled "tyrant" and some stormed out. There were several outbursts during the Council's discussion.

The second ordinance passed unanimously. It bans weapons inside any public city meeting.

No one from Open Carry tried to take their guns inside City Hall. At the Council meeting two weeks earlier, some had carried in guns that are classified as antiques, but they were asked to leave those weapons in their vehicles. They did as Arlington police asked.

Members of Open Carry Tarrant County say they are considering legal action against the city for passing what it believes are unconstitutional ordinances.

E-mail twoodard@wfaa.com

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