C. J. Grisham was driving with his 15-year-old son in Temple, Texas, when a cop pulled up behind him. "Some reason why you have this?" the cop asked about the AR-15 strapped to his back. He grabbed the gun and started examining it without invitation. "Because I can," Grisham, a strapped veteran, shot back. In a matter of moments, the situation devolved from terse remarks into a tug-of-war over the deadly weapon. As dashcam footage shows, Grisham was ultimately thrown on the hood of Officer Steven Ermis's car, handcuffed, and arrested.
On November 19, 2013, Grisham was found guilty of "interference with duties of a public servant." Summarily, gun activists across the country went nuts, particularly in Texas, a state that despite being full of Second Amendment enthusiasts is one of only six states in America in which citizens are not allowed to openly carry a modern handgun.
"That was something I seized upon as being not right," says Murdoch Pizgatti, who's behind the controversial guns-rights group Come and Take It Texas. "It was an unjustified attack on this person's rights. I realized the big mess we were in, and that started the whole course down this road."
Pizgatti is referring to Texas's open-carry movement, which aims to pass a bill allowing the open carrying of handguns during this year's state legislative session. To drum up support, Pizgatti plans on bringing 1,500 people to the steps of the Texas Capitol building in Austin this morning for a demonstration featuring the first-ever Ghost Runner—a new gun making machine built by 26-year-old cryptoanarchist Cody Wilson, whom Wired considers one of the most dangerous people on the Internet, along with Edward Snowden and Kim Jong-un.
In a recent editorial, the New York Times called the open-carry movement "the latest barometer of the nation's gun culture," which is apt. "I believe that open carrying is a deterrent for criminals and will prevent crime from happening, whereas a concealed weapons is only reactive," Pizgatti tells me. "An open carry will cause a criminal to do a risk assessment upon entering a place to rob."
While Pizgatti's argument is typical of gun-rights advocates—good guys need guns too—the movement itself has been very divisive, causing a stir last spring when open carry protesters started showing up at Chipotle and Chili's with their semi-automatic assault rifles, a move the NRA called "downright weird" (the gun lobby later retracted its criticism).
Grisham, the man who inspired Pizgatti, is distancing himself from Pizgatti's demonstration. He's behind a group called Open Carry Texas, and does not support storming the state capitol with guns. "I don't understand the purpose of it," Grisham told the Texas Tribune last week. "It seems confrontational, and really, needless."
Grisham has a point. It does sound a little scary. According to the event's Facebook page, Pizgatti's group plans to visit all 181 legislator's offices, presumably while a large group of people stands outside with brand-new 3-D guns.
The weapons are courtesy of Wilson, who is most famous for making a contraption that 3-D-prints plastic firearms. His latest invention, the Ghost Gunner, takes partially built guns—which can be sold without a firearms dealing license—and makes them functional. "It's the opposite of 3-D printing," Wilson told me. "It's milling."
Anyone can buy what's known as an "80 percent lower" online for less than $100. After 15 minutes in Wilson's machine, which costs $1,200, they become full-fledged guns. The machine's a great value for anyone who wants to mass-produce guns—it's relatively cheap and turns cheap hunks of metal into expensive weapons. But is that what Wilson intended his invention to be used for? The question—and the idea of open carry at all—seems beneath Wilson. He said he has no specific intention for the Ghost Gunner's use, but calls the protesters and their political squabbles "provincial."
"They said they were gonna use it for this, and I said, 'Jolly good, you can have one,'" he says. "But I don't know how they'll achieve their objectives by alienating everyone up there."
Follow Allie on Twitter.