Texas gun show loses county venue after refusing background checks

FILE photo of firearms for sale at Great Lakes Outdoor Supply, Middlefield, Ohio.

FILE photo of firearms for sale at Great Lakes Outdoor Supply, Middlefield, Ohio.  (AP)

A dispute over background checks is preventing a Texas county from hosting a long-running gun show at its Exposition Center.

Travis County commissioners did not renew a lease for the controversial event, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Saxet Gun Shows has hosted a show nearly every month since 2010, but when county officials wanted the company to require background checks for all firearm transactions, Saxet refused.

Weeks of discussions ensued, but both sides could not come to an agreement. Now the show will likely have to find another venue.

The background checks would only have affected about 10 percent of gun show sales. Federally-licensed firearms sellers are already required to implement background checks to ensure buyers are not felons or prohibited from owning a gun. 

But, according to the paper, different rules apply to private sales. Travis County officials wanted background checks for those sales when someone wants to sell a gun from a personal collection, as well. Saxet would not comply.  

Only one county commissioner, Gerald Daugherty, was willing to propose signing the $114,000 contract with Saxet. But when no other commissioners supported his move, negotiations were at a standstill.

“If you use a public facility to sell guns, we really oughta have background checks done. Or don’t use the facility,” County Judge Sam Biscoe, the chairman of the commissioners, told reporters.

Alice Tripp, lobbyist for the Texas State Rifle Association, called the move “political,” according to the

Saxet Gun Shows owner Todd Beiter told the site that neither state nor federal law requires background checks by private sellers, and “it is not really my job to infringe on anyone’s rights.”

Local activists demanded Travis County officials stop the gun show from continuing to operate at the government-owned Exposition Center, following the fatal shootings of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.

County commissioners squashed those efforts after their attorneys said they believed it would be illegal to ban shows from county facilities.

Gun shows are an unusual event to hold at the Expo Center, and extra terms and conditions like background checks can be required.

County commissioner Biscoe says he expects lawsuits. Attorney General Greg Abbott said last year via Twitter: “If Austin or Travis Co. try to ban gun shows they better be ready for a double-barreled lawsuit.”

“Saxet Gun Shows operate by state and federal law. That has never been in question,” gun lobbyist Tripp said. “The only person that would be harmed by this county commissioners’ requirement is Todd Beiter, the owner of Saxet Gun Shows.”

Anyone selling a gun without requiring a background check won’t be breaking any laws, according to Tripp. But Saxet would be in hot water with the county for permitting such a transaction to happen, Tripp said.

Saxet Gun Shows was trying to get a new contract for eight future shows, from March 2014 to January 2015.  The company’s show from Jan. 25 to 26 will continue, as it was already under contract.

Click for more from