CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Citizens can talk about whatever issue they want during public comment at the Corpus Christi City Council meeting but comments made by Matthew Rankin at Tuesday's meeting may have alarmed people.
Rankin became upset after he was stopped on his way into city hall while carrying a few knives.
He is a self-proclaimed First and second amendment auditor and local "cop watcher." He goes places to make sure they're following constitutional law.
On Tuesday, Rankin said he had time to see how things would go entering city hall with weapons.
"It's pretty disappointing," Rankin said to the city council. "I think you're the only city hall in the entire state that think they can ban weapons in the building."
Texas state law allows people to carry legal weapons in many public places.
According to penal code 46.03 subsection 14, an open government meeting, such as a city council meeting, is one place you cannot bring a gun, which Rankin acknowledged.
Rankin had the interpretation all other weapons are allowed in council chambers, as allowed by state law.
“They’re allowed to ban firearms in the room of a public meeting and that’s it. They’re not allowed to ban any other kind of legal weapon,” he said.
The lobby of city hall is a public place where weapons can be carried. City manager Peter Zanoni said there are prohibited areas inside and outside city hall, but in the lobby, you can carry weapons.
So, when Rankin was stopped and questioned in the doorway of city hall for 45 minutes, he was unhappy.
"You got two days. I’m coming back open carrying a handgun. If you try to stop me you’re going to have to arrest me," he said. "And, you're going to get a lawsuit, you're going to get criminal charges."
KRIS 6 News asked Rankin if it was a threat.
“No, that’s just simple constitutional civil rights activism,” Rankin said.
Zanoni said the city has every right to question someone carrying weapons into the building even if it is legal. He said the prevailing law is the protection of people. If they feel that could be threatened, they will take precautions.
Zanoni added that the city's legal team has been looking into the laws since Rankin's comments.
Using a paid legal service, he said they found that as of Sept. 1, 2021, it is also illegal to carry knives larger than 5.5 inches into places like an open government meeting.
Zanoni said Rankin broke the law on Tuesday when he was visibly carrying a knife on his hip larger than 5.5 inches.
Zanoni sent this message to the mayor and city council Tuesday night:
"Upon further and more detailed legal review, it is clear that Texas State Law (effect September 1, 2021) prohibits the carry of knives that are greater than 5.5 inches into a public meeting.
The public speaker today who spoke on this issue and who was brandishing a knife on his side that was greater than 5.5 inches in length was breaking the law.
We will ensure that our protocols are strengthened so this illegal activity does not happen again in our Council Chambers during a public meeting."
The city issued a statement to KRIS 6 News following Rankin's statements:
"The City of Corpus Christi is committed to the safety and security of our community while upholding the rights of our citizens. We will always follow Texas State gun laws and all protocols outlined in its penal codes."
Although there isn't a city council meeting on Thursday, Rankin is planning to return to see if he can carry a handgun into the building unbothered.
Zanoni said the section of penal code addressing these laws is very complex. The city legal team will continue to assess the matter.
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