A friend of mine works in Austin, doing something or other for state government. Her office is right next to the Capitol building. When she arrived at work this morning, she couldn't help but notice that the whole place was covered in bikers. The Harley kind. "Hundreds of dudes wearing leather," as she told me just a minute ago, some of them trying to park their hogs in the bus loading zones near the Capitol, others getting yelled at by a security guard for idling their engines outside the Capitol library.
As it turns out, this morning the members of the Texas Motorcycle Rights Association (TMRA) are lobbying their lawmakers in Austin. They're there to show their support for a piece of proposed legislation called the "Motorcycle Crash Prevention Act." Also, guns.
"There's about 1,500 motorcyclists here," TMRA secretary/treasurer Terri Williams told me. "They're going to meet with their representative senators. We've been doing it for 21 years, and we have a really good rapport with them." Before entering the Capitol, she added, they have a color guard, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem.
It's all part of Legislative Weekend 2013. Bikers from across the state got together yesterday for workshops on presenting a bill at the Capitol and "Working and Walking the Halls." The TMRA is joined by U.S. Defenders, a.k.a. the Coalition of Independent Riders.
"Unfortunately most people don't bother to talk with their Legislators," the TMRA writes on the Legislative Weekend's information page. "The people the Legislators see all the time are corporate lobbyists who typically don't care anything about us. Since we know Bikers will go to events that they can enjoy the company of their Brothers and Sisters. We decided to have an event that occurs for the very purpose of gathering people and getting them to talk to their Legislators."
The TMRA and U.S. Defenders are there primarily in support of a piece of model legislation drafted by ABATE, a motorcyclist's rights organization with chapters in all 50 states. (ABATE originally stood for ""A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments," and now stands for any number of other things, apparently.) The Motorcycle Crash Prevention Act, the text of which is right here, calls for the creation of a motorcycle education fund account by the state comptroller. The money would come from taxes collected by the Department of Public Safety and would be used in part to create a "motorcycle and three-wheel operator training and safety program."
The bill also proposes that funds be allocated for "motorcycle awareness and safety" classes for beginning drivers, seniors, commercial drivers and state and local employees. It also calls for billboards, literature and the creation of a special "Class T" license for would-be motorcycle and three-wheel vehicle operators.
The TMRA is also concerned about Second Amendment issues, as Williams writes in a legislative update. "Arrogant Obama-supporters have been emboldened by what they perceive to be a massive electoral mandate -- despite the fact that Obama would have lost the election if only 334,000 votes in four critical states had gone differently," the update reads. "But to be sure, these gun grabbers have made their objectives pretty clear." They warn of "sweeping new guns and ammo bans" and "registration" of gun owners.
"And, under rules changes being pushed by Senate Democrats, once you allow the least bit of gun control to go forward, the process will be beyond anyone's ability to stop once it turns really nasty and extreme," Williams adds. "The bottom line: ALL gun control should be opposed in its entirety. We are beyond the point of negotiating our demise with people who have made it clear that their objective is to destroy us. The only solution is to oppose EVERY SINGLE GUN CONTROL proposal. Every single one."
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"We work on constitutional issues," William told me. "So any kind of issues involving gun control, we'd be against. The bikers of Texas are for being able to have guns."
Williams says the bikers will support Woodlands Representative Steve Toth's bill that would ban federal gun bans in Texas.
"We support being able to protect yourselves," Williams adds. "When they're on their motorcycles on the road, a lot of people try to mess with you, to be honest with you. They have to protect themselves and they have to be able to protect themselves with weapons."
The TMRA also opposes toll roads, roadblocks and the failed Trans-Texas Corridor, Williams says. "Anything unconstitutional."