The Dennis Bonnen Saga
By Dudley Brown
President, National Association for Gun Rights
* The National Association for Gun Rights is the national affiliate for Texas Gun Rights
The 2019 Texas Legislative Session is in the record books.
Sadly, pro-gun Texans have next-to-nothing to show for all the pro-gun rhetoric spewed from the mouths of their politicians during election season.
In spite of Constitutional Carry becoming law in South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Kentucky this year, Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen single-handedly thwarted Texas’ attempt at becoming the 16th Constitutional Carry state.
Bonnen delivered early death sentence for Constitutional Carry
Early hopes of Speaker Bonnen being more pro-gun than his predecessor quickly vanished in the 2019 legislative session.
One of Bonnen’s first actions as Speaker was appointing “Red Flag” gun confiscation bill author Democrat Joe Moody to serve as his Speaker Pro-Tempore.
If that wasn’t alarming enough, Speaker Bonnen then appointed well-known anti-gun Democrat Poncho Nevarez to Chair the committee responsible for hearing most pro-gun legislation, including Constitutional Carry.
Inside sources report Nevarez requested the appointment with the purpose of killing Constitutional Carry — and Bonnen obliged.
Texas Gun Rights sounded the alarm on Bonnen’s anti-gun actions, but he quickly attempted to pull the wool over gun owners’ eyes with promises of a “quick hearing” for Constitutional Carry to the bill’s author.
TXGR exposes Bonnen for blocking Constitutional Carry
Weeks turned into months without a hearing for Constitutional Carry, and key legislative deadlines to advance bills were rapidly approaching.
TXGR ramped up the pressure on Bonnen and his lieutenants by sending mail to thousands of pro-gun Texans, deploying a massive email campaign, and using targeted social media ads in three key legislative districts to expose leadership’s actions in blocking Constitutional Carry.
In spite of the onslaught of phone calls into Bonnen’s office, his leadership team continued stonewalling House Bill 357, the Constitutional Carry bill.
That’s when TXGR staff and volunteers started going door-to-door in the districts of key members of leadership, to encourage constituents to contact their legislators on the importance of advancing Constitutional Carry.
Bonnen cracks under pressure, revealing his anti-gun colors
After weeks of sustained pressure from pro-gun Texans, Dennis Bonnen launched a salacious media campaign against TXGR Executive Director Chris McNutt and finally admitted publicly what everyone already suspected: he opposes Constitutional Carry.
“Do I think [Constitutional Carry] is bad policy? Yes. So I’m not running from that…They can attack me all they want.” — Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Dallas Morning News, 4/5/19
In the Houston Chronicle, Bonnen bemoaned that gun rights activists — who would dare use the same door-to-door tactics that he employs every two years to get re-elected — are somehow intimidating and threatening.
Bonnen’s week-long media campaign against pro-gun Texans was nothing more than a failed attempt to divert attention away from himself for ultimately killing Constitutional Carry.
But in his most outrageous lie, Bonnen appeared on Lubbock radio to falsely claim McNutt ‘flashed’ a firearm to legislative staff even though official reports prove that he was unarmed and professional.
In response, the National Association for Gun Rights held a joint press conference with Texas Gun Rights and attorney Jesse Binnal on April 23rd demanding an apology from Bonnen for his defamatory attacks.
NAGR and TXGR doubled down, keeping the pressure on Bonnen by patching thousands of phone calls into his office while spending thousands of dollars on targeted social media ads to half a million Texans across the state.
Staff from both organizations delivered over 50,000 Constitutional Carry petitions to all 150 State Representatives during the final week of April, sending a clear message that their constituents support Constitutional Carry.
Bonnen mocks Constitutional Carry supporters
Rather than stand up for Texans’ right to bear arms, Speaker Bonnen continued digging a deeper hole with gun owners.
Bonnen decried on social media that citizens who support Constitutional Carry are somehow “chipping away at our strong 2nd Amendment protections,” which is nothing more than Orwellian doublespeak for gun control.
In plainer language, Bonnen publicly admitted that he supports restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms.
He then followed up with an appearance on NBC DFW in early May, publicly insulting pro-gun Texans practicing their First Amendment Rights, whining:
“It’s been tough. I never envisioned the level of insane, continuous, vicious attack from these people that live out in the woods, in a cave somewhere….”
On May 9th, Speaker Bonnen finally let the clock expire on Constitutional Carry for 2019 without so much as a hearing, let alone a vote.
The future of Constitutional Carry in Texas
Texas Gun Rights is relentlessly pursuing efforts to force a recorded vote on Constitutional Carry, to separate the fake “pro-gun” politicians from the true Second Amendment champions, until Texas joins the growing list of Constitutional Carry states.
Thanks to the tactics TXGR displayed this session, Constitutional Carry is now front and center of public discussion.
Not only that, but Texas Gun Rights and gun rights activists will hold those responsible for stonewalling Constitutional Carry accountable during the 2020 election.
In fact, TXGR is already developing plans to ensure a strong presence going into the 2020 primaries — and the pro-gun voice will come back stronger than ever for the 2021 session.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2019 edition of the Lonestar Defender, the official newsletter of Texas Gun Rights. Become a TXGR member to automatically receive this annual newsletter in the mail.