Paralyzed veteran with no illusions about law
“Whether you agree with who they are, where they live or how they carry, it’s still their right. We’re not giving people the right to carry, they already have the right to open carry.” - Missouri State Representative expressing the right to defend one self, as bestowed by Deity...
Austin, TX – On Friday the 13th, Gary Hays made a medical appointment at the VA Hospital in Temple, then hitched a ride, wheelchair and all, to the State Capital.
His errand – to be arrested for displaying a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to cause alarm – is expressly intended as a test of the Disorderly Conduct statute, Section 42.01 (a)(8) of the Texas Penal Code.
Mr. Hays is a Vietnam-era veteran of the Army, a quadriplegic paralyzed in an auto accident 10 years ago who is confined to a wheelchair.
He is also a member of Open Carry Texas, two other members of which made the same choice, to be arrested by Troopers of the Department of Public Safety who patrol the Capital grounds. Those two men have been released on personal recognizance bond for a nominal fee. Mr. Hays, on the other hand, does not wish to be set free. Prominent conservative politicians immediately came to their defense, men such as Republican Governor candidate Tom Pauken of Dallas, a veteran of Army Intelligence and the Reagan White House, who said, “Today, two Texans were arrested near the state Capitol grounds for possessing firearms.
“It is my understanding that they both were carrying antique black-powder pistol replicas, which are legal to carry under Texas law.
“I’m calling for the release of these two citizens who posed no danger to other individuals and were only exercising their rights as protected under the U.S. Constitution and Texas laws.”
Gary Hays said, “I've been imprisoned by this paralyzed body for 10 years. They can't do anything to me.”
According to his wife, Marcy Hays, he is held in a single cell in the Travis County Jail.
He is nothing less than objective about his status. Where others are quick to insist that his arrest was an illegal act of a despotic government, he told me, “The law says 'displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to cause alarm...” There is no dispute that a Colt revolver is a deadly weapon, according to Gary Hays.
It is the “intent” portion of the law that is under challenge, in his opinion. It's strange to watch videos of Mr. Hays in conference with the DPS Troopers. Unlike other activists, there is no posturing, no strutting or preening in defiance. The cops kneel or squat by his wheelchair to confer with him in low tones. They are men in conference. Respect is mutual. Courtesy is an utmost and mutual observance.
Mr. Hays spent most of the day Friday in conference with insurance plan representatives who sell legal protection for firearms-related offenses. It was his concern that he might not be eligible for legal services because his choice of weapon, an 1851 Colt Navy Revolver in .44 caliber, is not legally classified as a firearm in Texas. Once he had determined that he could obtain legal services to challenge the law, he made his choice, solicited a ride to Austin, and put his plan into effect.
It wasn't his first brush with the troopers at the Capital. The previous Friday, September 6, he carried the same weapon inside the rotunda entrance and was admonished to leave and put it back in his vehicle.
He refused. At that point, a trooper gave him a warning citation after Mr. Hays, several troopers and the one who gave him the warning read the black and white letter of the law and realized – unexpectedly – that, indeed, a replica of a black powder revolver of a type manufactured prior to 1899 is classified as a weapon, not a firearm.
In a video made at the time, surprise enters the voices of the troopers as they read the statute. It's an impromptu lesson in law, taught on the steps of the temple, the palace of law.
He vowed to return, and with predictable results, caused himself to be arrested for the Class B misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct.
One is tempted to recall the myth of the unlucky status of that day, Friday, October 13, 1307, when the Office of the Inquisition arrested the Grand Master Jacques DeMolay and other officers of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ of the Temple of Solomon, the Knights Templar, at their Commandery in Paris and other locations in Europe, placed them in chains, and charged them various acts of sacrilege and perversion.
But this story involves much more than that. This is America, where the mythology of the six gun, the “world's right arm,” is deeply etched in the oral history of a violent past, one populated by veterans of a vicious civil war, including General George Armstrong Custer, Jesse James, and hundreds of thousands of others who headed west.
Men like James Butler, better known as “Wild Bill” Hickok, the Army scout and freighter, Deputy U.S. Marshal and renowned gunfighter and gambler, wrote the legend large and bloody. Hickok reportedly once shot a man at the incredible distance of 75 yards with a Navy Colt, killing him with one shot.
Today, the likes of Master Sergeant C.J. Grisham challenge the government's right to limit the right of the people to keep and bear arms. He is joined by numerous other men, proponents of national organizations such as the Tenth Amendment Center, and Oathkeepers, all of which are pushing for nullification of the more than 22,000 firearms laws on the books in favor of a strict construction of the Second Amendment, which plainly states the right of the people to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed.”
Names such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., are mentioned in the same breath with those of the founding fathers.
They side with former Presidents James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, who held that the people have the right as an undisputed grant from Almighty God, a guarantee that they may defend themselves by any means necessary, regardless of government approval or disapproval.
It is a season to make law. Sgt. Grisham will be tried for a similar offense charged in March on September 23 in Bell County Court at Law in Belton.
Battle lines have formed.
Here are three additional tests of the laws governing open carry of sidearms that will challenge a doctrine of intent, all part of a national trend in which a nation is struggling to arm itself against the wishes of the practitioners of law and order.