The Austin Chronicle

Guns Return to Travis County Agenda {UPDATE}

By Michael King, January 21, 2014, 4:15pm, Newsdesk

Despite a "compromise" proposal by Saxet Gun Show ownership to encourage background checks by private sellers at future shows, Travis County Commissioners Court took no action today to extend the lease of the Travis County Exposition Center for future Saxet shows. Barring further action or negotiation, next weekend's show will be the last.

As we reported last week, Travis County Commissioners Court left the 2014 Saxet Gun Show lease “pending” when the parties could not agree, specifically on requiring background checks on all buyers, including private transactions on county property. Saxet owners were reportedly offering a compromise that does not include background checks. Indeed, the Saxet owners - including 91-year-old founder Gus Cargile - appeared at Commissioners Court this afternoon, offering to provide additional signage requesting that all buyers undergo a voluntary background check, but insisting that they could do nothing further concerning private transactions without increasing their own liability.

Following testimony from Saxet and gun rights advocates (including one who identified herself as a member of "Moms With Guns Demand Action*"), and testimony from those opposing any contract extension with Saxet, the commissioners moved into executive session (on this and other matters). When they returned, Pct. 3 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty praised both sides as having legitimate arguments, but said he is not persuaded that background checks would have a substantial effect on gun violence, and that gun ownership remains an important right and cultural legacy.

Daugherty moved that the contract (about to expire) be extended through 2014 on the current terms. That motion died for lack of a second. County Judge Sam Biscoe noted that, without further action, the contract would not be extended, and commissioners moved on to other business.


It’s not clear whether the Court will take any action today; all that is posted is an 11am executive session discussion to “consider and take appropriate action” concerning the Saxet request. The Texas Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America issued a press release Monday evening, calling for the Commissioners to “stand strong on background checks for all firearm sales at Saxet Gun Shows.”

Here’s more detail from the release:

”Just two weeks after suspending contract negotiations with Saxet Gun Shows due to promoters' refusal to require background checks for all firearms sales at future Travis County Expo Center events, the Travis County Commissioners' Court will again consider whether to enter into a 2014-15 contract with the gun show promoter at its meeting on Tues., Jan. 21. …

”’We commend the Travis County Commissioners for their continued thoughtful attention to this important public safety issue, and for standing up for the rights of all citizens of Travis County in the face of tremendous pressure from the gun lobby,’ said Hilary Rand, Texas regional manager of Moms Demand Action. ‘Background checks are the single most effective way to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill. This straightforward requirement helps guarantee responsible gun sales and helps save lives. It is an easy, effective measure that will better protect all Travis County residents, including my family.’

”At a hearing earlier this month, representatives from the Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action provided testimony stating that since 1968 federal law has banned the possession of firearms by convicted felons, domestic abusers, and people who are dangerously mentally ill. Current law requires background checks be performed by licensed dealers. However, unlicensed sellers at gun shows and through Internet sites sell millions of guns every year, with no background check whatsoever, including at the Saxet Gun Shows held at the Travis County Expo Center. Moms urged the Commissioners to close this ‘gun show loophole’ for shows taking place in county-owned facilities, thereby keeping guns out of dangerous hands and increasing public safety.”

*Note full name of "Moms With Guns," supplied by Kathy Perkins, the group's founder, in post below.

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