With lack of movement on “constitutional carry” bill, gun rights advocate visits homes of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, other members

Texas Tribune News

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, presiding over the lower chamber during a bill debate last month.
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, presiding over the lower chamber during a bill debate last month.
 Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Trib

A gun rights activist, allegedly angry over the lack of movement on a “constitutional carry” proposal at the Texas Legislature, visited the home of House Speaker Dennis Bonnen last week and was intercepted by officers with the Department of Public Safety.

The news was first reported by The Facts, a newspaper located in Brazoria County, which Bonnen represents. Chris McNutt, executive director of the nonprofit group Texas Gun Rights, last week visited Bonnen’s home in Lake Jackson, which was already under surveillance by state troopers after the man posted to social media his visits to other lawmakers’ homes

Bonnen, according to Hearst Newspapers, called McNutt’s move “gutless.”

Bonnen was in Austin the day of McNutt’s visit as the lower chamber debated its proposed state budget for 2020-21, though the Angleton Republican’s 14-year-old-son was home at the time of the gun rights advocate’s arrival. The day before, McNutt had documented on Facebook his travel to neighborhoods where Republican state Reps. Dustin Burrows and Four Price reside in Lubbock and Amarillo, respectively.

The speaker’s office confirmed such details to The Texas Tribune on Thursday night.

McNutt’s group has long called on Bonnen and other House leaders to advance House Bill 357, a measure authored by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, that would give Texans the right to openly carry a firearm without a permit. The proposal, often called “constitutional carry” by activists, has failed to garner traction at the Legislature in prior sessions.

In February, HB 357 was referred to the House Homeland Security Committee, which is chaired by state Rep. Poncho Nevárez, a Democrat from Eagle Pass. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing.

“House Speaker Dennis Bonnen is blocking Constitutional Carry (HB 357)!,” Texas Gun Rights posted on Facebook on April 2. “It appears Bonnen intended to kill this bill all along — in spite of his false promises for a ‘quick hearing.’”

The post included phone numbers to Bonnen’s office to “respectfully urge” the speaker to advance the legislation to the full House floor for a vote — and said that, if the measure died this year, “the blame [would rest] SQUARELY on Speaker Bonnen’s shoulders.”

McNutt, in a statement to Hearst, suggested that visiting Bonnen’s home was within bounds as his group aims to push the gun proposal.

“If politicians like Speaker Dennis Bonnen think they can show up at the doorsteps of Second Amendment supporters and make promises to earn votes in the election season, they shouldn’t be surprised when we show up in their neighborhoods to insist they simply keep their promises in the legislative session,” McNutt said in the statement.