Michael Keoughan was exercising his right to bear arms in Texas last Wednesday. He’s part of a Texas group of Second Amendment supporters who demonstrate that the RKBA means something. They do that by legally carrying rifles slung across their back. When asked, they happily explain that they’re educating Texans about their rights under the state and federal constitutions . . .
Come and Take It, the Second Amendment group to which Mr. Keoughan belongs, aims to restore the right to openly carry pistols and other weapons to Texans. It has held numerous open carry demonstrations around Texas, and is in the process of planning another for Andrews.
Mr. Keoughan was checking out the route for their upcoming rally when he was arrested for openly carrying his rifle. This is the second time that a Come And Take It member has been arrested in Andrews for open carry. Andrews police chief Bud Jones has been notified that the rally would be taking place and still says that he will support it.
The ruse that the police used to arrest Mr. Keoughan was “disorderly conduct.” There is a provision in Texas law that defines disorderly conduct with a weapon as:
“DISORDERLY CONDUCT. (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly…(8) displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm.”
The problem for the police is that Mr. Keoughan and Come and Take It adamatly state that their actions are not “calculated to alarm” but are meant to educate. It’s difficult to argue their point when the vast majority of people who they meet on the street aren’t alarmed. From newswest9.com:
“I had great interactions throughout the entire day until the police showed up,” Keoughan said.
Police Chief Jones disagrees:
“We didn’t know who he was, had no clue but we started getting a mass number of phone calls,” Chief Jones said. “By displaying the weapon, he caused undue alarm.”
Yes, some people were alarmed. We don’t know how many, or how alarmed, because from past experience with these events, the calls are often inquiries asking if open carry is legal, which is exactly the sort of education Come And Take It is attempting to achieve.
The Chief is wrong to presume that causing alarm is the same as “calculated to alarm.” If merely causing alarm as a result of a legal action were sufficient to arrest, then the entire constitutional guarantee of bearing arms in Texas could be voided by anyone claiming that they were upset by seeing someone carrying a gun.
“This is the issue that they don’t want to address that we have to address,” Chief Jones said. “When we get a call about a person with a gun, do we ignore it? Walking down the street? They’re alluding to the fact that we don’t have any right to make contact to them because they’re not doing anything wrong. I beg to differ with them.”
No one is saying that the police can’t drive past someone who a citizen finds suspicious, or stop to talk to them. Police know that criminals almost never openly carry guns, and that those who are working to restore Second Amendment rights often do.
It’s difficult to square Chief Jones’ assurances that he supports the First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Amendments with Mr. Keoughan’s arrest:
“I can’t emphasize enough that we support their right,” he said.
The police, after determining that Mr. Keoughan was in fact exercising his rights, did not have to arrest him, but they did. The leading candidate for Governor, Greg Abbot, has said that he supports legalizing open carry of handguns in Texas.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.