FORT WORTH — A leader of the Tarrant County movement to permit firearms being carried openly squared off against the city of Arlington in federal court Monday.
Kory Watkins wants U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor to issue an injunction against the city. After Open Carry Tarrant County supporters started handing out literature in the streets, Arlington revised its ordinance against impeding traffic.
The city lays out a list of the busiest streets and intersections, where it is now specifically illegal for pedestrians to approach cars for leaflet distribution.
Open Carry Tarrant County routinely posts videos of members walking with their weapons and approaching motorists. In one, a demonstrator approaches a car and says, "Excuse me, ma'am, would you like me to break the law and hand you a Constitution?"
Watkins claims the ordinance muzzles free speech and keeps supporters from joining him on the streets.
In federal court, a city attorney asked Watkins if some motorists might be intimidated.
Was his rifle loaded? He said it was.
What kind of rifle was it? An AK-47.
Watkins' lawyer said those questions show Arlington is reacting to guns — not traffic safety.
“How is that relevant?” said Warren Norred, Watkins’ attorney. “None of that was relevant."
Norred also brought up an e-mail by Arlington City Council member Charlie Parker. In it, Parker referred to open carry demonstrators as "thugs" for their behavior at a Council meeting, and their treatment of some police officers.
"The problem is, some people are uncomfortable with this speech,” Norred said outside of federal court in Fort Worth. “They want to do anything they can to shut them up."
The City of Arlington’s attorney said the leaflet ordinance is strictly about public safety, and is not aimed at any group.
Judge O'Connor asked dozens of questions during the two-hour hearing. He talked of the importance of protecting speech that some might find “uncomfortable.”
He said he'll rule soon on Watkins' request for an injunction to block Arlington from enforcing its ordinance.