There was a hearing last week in the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Judicial District of Texas that might finally put a stop to the enforcement of a 2014 Texas law that prohibits members of motorcycle clubs from legally carrying firearms. If the four judges who heard the case are very bold, their decision may also effect the notorious Texas Gang Intelligence Index which is a database of people who have been reported by some cop as being in some way associated with “criminal street gangs.”
The appellee is Ashley Becker and he may or may not be a member of the Bandidos Motorcycle Club. But he made it into the gang database because someone said he was. Becker’s ironic predicament is that he has a state issued permit to carry a concealed weapon and it is illegal for “criminal street gang members to carry a firearm.”
It is a blatant way to harass motorcycle club members.
Becker has suffered numerous traffic stops: For bumping against a white line, for riding too slow on a rural road and for failing to signal his intent to turn. Almost any reasonable person understands the traffic stops were contrived and each time he was stopped Each time he is stopped, Becker immediately presented the arresting officer with his Texas permit to carry and told him the location of his weapon because the Texas law required him to do that. Then when Becker’s credentials were checked, each arresting officer would “discover” that Becker’s name was in the gang database. So, another charge was manufactured.
This charge against Becker was dismissed in 2018 and then refiled in February, 2019. He was convicted of Unlawful Carry, The aﬃdavit identifies Becker’s membership in the Bandidos as the only probable cause for arrest. Becker is appealing that.
Becker’s lawyer, Keith Hampton, told the four judges, “It is not enough to get him acquitted. Anytime this guy wants to get on his bike and just ride around he’s got probable cause written on his forehead.”
“The DPS has a database of everybody they have decided is a gang member,” Hampton said. “They’ve also got a database of everybody who has a license to carry a weapon. All they have to do is look at these two databases, all they have to do is collate them, and then find the people.”
It is hard to tell whether the state has already given up on this or not. Hampton was informed, logical and relaxed and he seemed to genuinely connect with the appeals court. The state was represented by Jeffrey Ford who made the argument that guilt by association should be a crime. Ford seemed to be reading his presentation off index cards.
It may seem like a small case because the hearing was ignored by most press outlets in Texas. But it may be more important than it may seem at first glance.
“This is important,” Bandidos Club Counsel Bill Morian said when approached for comment. “This case may put a stop to this sort of harassment and it is important not just for the Bandidos but for all the other clubs like the Mongols and the Hells Angels.”
The court should render a decision this November.