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Gun show a no go with background checks in contract

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 by Jimmy Maas

Travis County Commissioners voted Tuesday to offer the promoters of the Saxet Gun Show a new contract containing language requiring background checks on all gun sales, even private transactions. However, show promoter Todd Beiter said late Tuesday that he will not accept the new contract.


Commissioners voted 3-0 to offer a contract with the language specifying background checks for all gun sales, additional monitoring to be sure checks are completed, as well as parking lot security to prevent person-to-person sales without background checks. Commissioners Bruce Todd and Ron Davis were not present.


Show organizers said Tuesday that the mandated background checks go beyond what is required by state and federal law, and that they will never agree to that. Saxet promoters say they are scouting other Central Texas locations for their gun show.


“Their position was that ‘We didn’t like their language,’ and rejected it,” said County Judge Sam Biscoe after the court adjourned. “They wanted us to send them our language. We did discuss it and they said they’d seriously consider it.”


The last Saxet Gun Show at the Travis County Exposition Center closed 10 days ago. The promoters were hoping to put on another there near the end of March. Saxet has hosted at least eight shows a year since 2010 at the county facility.


This is the third time the Saxet contract has come before the court in five weeks. The previous two occasions saw no action taken by the court. A total of three motions died without a second, allowing the contract with the gun show to expire without a new one.


“It’s a very important step toward trying to come to some agreement about how we are going to allow people to have their rights and how we are going to have a safe county,” said Frances Schenkkan of Texas Gun Sense to the court.


“Local government code 235.023 states that counties are prohibited from regulating the transfer, ownership, possession or transportation of firearms,” Michael Fossum, resident and a Saxet supporter, told the court. “I’m not an attorney, but in my opinion that makes it illegal for the county commissioners to require background checks at gun shows. It’s not required by state or federal law.”


“The tragic mass shootings that have prompted folks like Gun Sense to come out and ask for background checks . . . would not have prevented those tragedies,” said Fossum.


But county officials say the background checks will stay in the contract language and will be required for all future gun sales at the Expo Center.


As for any additional security needed to be sure Saxet is complying with the terms, Judge Biscoe believed it could be done with the three security personnel stipulated in this and past contracts.


“My position all the time has been we’re not trying to shift 100 percent of the cost to Saxet,” said Biscoe. “We’re trying to be sure we get specific things done. I have said repeatedly ‘Let us know how we can solve your burden.’ However the requirement of the background check really has been the piece that prohibited us from coming to terms.”


There is a lot at stake for the county. It will have to find a new tenant for the eight scheduled dates over the next year or lose the $100,000 the gun show provided in revenue.


“In my view, they (Saxet) can easily do the next two or three shows and see the impact and conclude that it’s not worth it, in which case we’re back where we are today,” said Biscoe. “Once you start doing the background checks and people get used to it and it’ll be much simpler than it is today. But today, those that are against background checks are vehemently against them. There’s nothing I can say or do to change their minds.”

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