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Travis County votes down gun show ban, city of Austin likely to follow suit

With Tuesday’s unanimous vote, Travis County commissioners ended their current consideration of banning gun shows on county property.  This development signals the county’s plan to honor an existing contract with Saxet Trade Shows for nine upcoming shows at the Travis County Exposition Center.  The vote also keeps intact a county income stream that represents about 10 percent of the Expo Center’s total $1.15 million annual revenue.

After a closed meeting with county attorneys, commissioners reportedly said they question having the legal authority to ban the shows.  “I take very seriously the idea of abiding by the law. State law prevents this court from doing much of anything on this issue,” Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt said.  The Austin American-Statesman additionally reported Eckhardt and other commissioners’ favor requiring all gun buyers to pass a background check, a measure not currently in place.

Despite dropping the gun show ban, commissioners did vote to implement a new level of building use approval in which their permission will be required for proposed Expo Center events deemed as posing “unusually high safety risks.” Expo Center event contracts were previously approved by county staffers.

Citing plans to develop requirements for such events beyond gun shows, Judge Sam Biscoe said, “It was clear from legal advice we received that our net needs to be a lot broader, and we need to pick up all events that are more unsafe than others.”  Biscoe also voiced his support for gun shows requiring background checks for all purchases.

While Travis County has found resolution for the gun show issue, the city of Austin’s course remains unknown.  As with Travis County, Austin has been considering a gun show ban.  In response, Attorney General Greg Abbott posted last week on his Twitter page:  “If Austin or Travis Co. try to ban gun shows they better be ready for a double-barreled lawsuit.”

Austin City Council Member Kathie Tovo is expected to introduce a resolution calling for stricter federal gun laws, but council members appear to be backing off their gun ban action.

Per the Statesman:

Austin can take, at most, limited action on the issue, council members said at a meeting of the council’s Public Health and Human Services Committee. Some council members had said they were interested in considering a gun show ban — the Expo Center is on city property, so the city could have some authority over events there — but following a closed meeting with attorneys Tuesday, there seemed to be little movement toward a ban.

Though Austin Councilman Mike Martinez previously advocated a proactive stance to not further enable the distribution and sales of guns through public property or through public facilities, he told the Statesman, “No one is proposing anything that would be illegal or stir up a fight with the (Texas) attorney general and result in a lawsuit.”  Short of a ban, special permitting requiring City Council approval for gun shows on private property is another measure in which Martinez previously expressed interest.

Responding to Travis County’s vote, Abbott said the county “did the right thing by following the law and continuing to allow gun shows on county property. The city of Austin should do the same.”

Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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