Drinks at Texas gun shows? Maybe not after all

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AUSTIN — The uproar over a proposal to allow alcohol sales at Texas gun shows is prompting state regulators to reconsider the idea.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s staff recommends that the commission drop the proposal, according to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.

“We proposed the rule and got feedback from a lot of people who were against it, so we are recommending it to be withdrawn,” said commission spokeswoman Carolyn Beck.

The commission often follows staff recommendations but could amend it or approve the original proposal.

Last month, the commission outlined a proposal “that would allow alcohol service to continue throughout the gun show if certain requirements are met.” The change was meant to tweak rules to let the Dallas Safari Club serve drinks on the floor of its annual convention, said Martin Wilson, assistant general counsel for the commission.

Current TABC rules prohibit serving alcohol during gun shows at venues licensed by the commission. The new rule would have allowed alcohol consumption if there were no live ammunition, firearms were disabled and no guns changed hands during the event.

The proposal made national news, and gun-control advocates and opponents alike said the rule change was a bad idea. The National Rifle Association opposed it.

But to some, the proposal opened a window into Texas culture. Salon headlined its coverage: “Gun nuts’ alcohol debacle: Why their new booze scheme is the scariest yet.”

Comments collected on the commission’s website were mostly critical: “absurd,” “deadly,” a “back door way to gun control.”

“No gun owners are in favor of this,” one person wrote. “This is a covert attempt to shut down gun shows. … If it isn’t broke, do not try to fix it until it is. File this in the trash can where it belongs.”

Wilson said a “big majority” of the comments were from those opposed, both gun-rights advocates and gun-control proponents.

Gun shows are big business in Texas, where more than 200 are held annually. Thousands of guns and knives change hands at the events. Background checks for buyers in private exchanges at shows aren’t required in most states, including Texas.

Since August, commissioners and staffers have been making it clear that the change wouldn’t automatically make alcohol available at gun shows.

Alice Tripp, legislative director for the Texas State Rifle Association, said that organization’s members are more comfortable now that they understand the proposal’s intent.

“Nobody thought, wanted or would allow alcohol sales at their events,” Tripp said. “They wanted to be sure it couldn’t be forced on them.”

Steve Weinberg, a member of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission, is also a government affairs adviser for the Dallas Safari Club. He said the club’s annual convention, which draws nearly 50,000 people, isn’t a gun show.

“There were around 1,500 booths that are more like exhibits. Out of all these booths, a small percentage had guns in them,” he said.

The club auctioned more than $4 million in hunting trips, gear, jewelry and guns at this year’s convention in January in Dallas. According to the club, proceeds go to conservation efforts and to fund its mission statement, which includes conservation, education and “protecting hunters’ rights.”

This year’s convention generated controversy when the club auctioned a permit to kill an endangered black rhinoceros in Namibia. The club said the $350,000 raised by the auction would be given to the Namibian government for conservation work.

Source: Dallas News

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