In the most liberal center in Texas, activists and politicos have been looking for ways for local government to create greater gun safety. One proposal was to ban gun shows on city and county property. This past week, the Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to allow currently contracted gun shows to continue. Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt says that it is the state legislature who needs to act.
In Texas, we love our guns. My great uncle was an excellent shot. He ran his gas station on the honor system so he could nap in a chair outside the front door. If anyone attempted to short-change him, he shot the thief's tires out.
My 12-year-old must have inherited his good aim. This Christmas we bought him a .243, and ten days later he dropped his first deer with a single shot.
Guns are part of our history, our present and our future.
But, even gun-toting Texans agree that only law-abiding and mentally competent folks should be allowed access to guns. Background checks at the point of sale, any sale, are one step among many in achieving this commonly held safety goal.
We all recognize both the right to access and the inherent danger of guns. We must balance personal rights with public safety. Access is not our problem – we have more guns per capita in the United States than in any other nation. Safety is our problem – we have more gun-related homicides in the United States than in any other wealthy nation.
People want their laws to provide safety, fairness and effective governance. The federal, state and local authorities all have vital and mutually dependent roles to play in assuring safe, fair and effective gun regulation that in no way infringes on Second Amendment rights of law-abiding, mentally competent folks to possess firearms.
The federal government is doing its part within the confines of the Second Amendment and the Commerce Clause to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and mentally incompetent people. Travis County and the city of Austin are trying to do our part, too. But, the state is barring our way with a double barrel of “we won't” and “you can't either.”
The federal government cannot comprehensively address the safety issues that come with easily accessible guns. Only the states can regulate gun transfers that are not in interstate commerce, like sales at gun shows, in parking lots or among friends.
Sixteen other states regulate gun transactions beyond those regulated by federal law. Nine states allow local authorities to set a higher bar for gun regulation within their communities. Texas must stop shirking its duty to provide safe, fair and effective gun laws or get out of the way of local officials who will.
Contact your legislator and tell him or her that requiring background checks for all gun transactions is a reasonable step in the right direction.
Sarah Eckhardt is the Precinct 2 Travis County Commissioner. She was first elected in 2006.