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Texas Democrats Push For Local Gun Show Regulation

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TARRANT COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – The Tarrant County Democratic Party wants to run background checks on customers purchasing guns at events held on city property, which would include attendees of the Original Fort Worth Gun Show.

Tim Finucane is the co-owner of Premier Gun Shows and says the idea is ridiculous. “Our show this past weekend was heavily attended by families and that sort of thing, not criminals that are out trying to by guns. They don’t come to the gun shows to get their guns.”

Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell says it’s ridiculous not to take some safety precautions. “Put some common sense regulations in there. Don’t take away people’s rights to own guns. Take away the rights of felons and domestic abusers and people who have mental illness, take their rights away.”

As it stands, no background checks are required in Texas if the private sale is made at a gun show. Finucane admits that a portion of weapons sold at Premier Gun Show events are from private sellers. “Almost all of the vendors at our shows are federally licensed dealers. I would say probably only one to two-percent of sales that take place at a gun show don’t already have background checks performed.” Finucane said that the proposed resolution is “unnecessary” and is not, “any kind of action that’s gonna truly address the gun violence problem.”

When interviewed Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said she hasn’t seen or heard enough of an outcry, locally, to consider making any changes. In response Maxwell said, “That argument drives me crazy, to be perfectly honest. We hear every single day about terrible things happening with firearms. And young people in the city of Fort Worth, every single day, are getting shot and killed. So, we hear lots of grief and lots of anguish and we do nothing. This is a really easy thing to do. It just makes good sense.”

Premier Gun Shows co-owner Finucane said the resolution is a knee jerk reaction to recent events like the school shooting in Newtown, mass murder in Norway and current gun related murder allegation against Olympian Oscar Pistorius. “A lot of people that don’t understand about gun shows, they just want to do something in wake of some of the gun violence that’s taken place lately and they have the wrong impression about gun shows,” he said.

Maxwell countered the argument about there being a need for regulation and said statistics suggest someone needs to take action. “I looked up some statics on this… in 2010 there were 63 violent homicides in the city of Fort Worth and the vast majority of those involved firearms, and the majority of them involved the deaths of young people under 25 years of age. I’m tired of not doing anything about that.”

Whenever there’s a discussion over gun regulation, some argue that once the government starts imposing any type of control on the right to own guns, eventually all rights to own weapons will be taken away. Maxwell responded, “I own three guns myself, at my house, and I think I should have the right to do that. But you know what? If I was a convicted felon I shouldn’t have that right,” and he went on to say, “This is no different than the law that says if you’re gonna operate a motor vehicle, which has the capacity to kill people, you need to have a license first before you do that. The same argument would be that if we start requiring driver’s licenses, the next thing you know we’re not gonna let people drive cars at all. That argument doesn’t make any sense.”

So what exactly is all the back-and-forth about? Last month the Tarrant County Democratic Party submitted a resolution, passed by the group, to Fort Worth City Council. The three objectives of the resolution is to allow only licensed sellers at gun shows, require background checks for all gun purchases, and require a seven day waiting periods for the gun show purchase.

Finucane said those type of requirements cannot be legally enforced locally. “It’s up to the state legislature to do anything like that and city council’s don’t have the authority to take that action.” Maxwell said the idea that cities have no legal jurisdiction over events in their geographic area is incomprehensible. “That [legal claim] has been raised. I don’t read it [provision] the same way that a lot of people do, [claiming,] ‘I don’t think we can do that. Cities don’t have the power to regulate these shows within their own boundaries.’ I don’t believe that,” he said. “I think every city in this state has the right to regulate gun shows within their boundaries.”

Fort Worth Representative Lon Burnam recently filed House Bill 1030. The measure would clear up any confusion about the powers of city, county and state officials. Bill 1030 would “prohibit the sale of firearms on property owned or controlled by the municipality, other than the sale of firearms at a permanent retail store.”

CBS 11 News went to the streets of Fort Worth to get citizens’ opinions. They didn’t think much of it at the Stockyards.

Former resident Danny Powell told us, “I don’t think the city should be involved. Leave it for the state. The more government you get involved with it the more confusing it’s going to be. There’ll just be more people falling through the cracks.”

Judy Steudeman of Fort Worth told us, “I think it’s too much government. I’m not a gun owner but if I were I’d feel the same way. I don’t think it’s the city’s responsibility.”

Matthew Hissam thinks background checks are okay, but waiting periods? Absolutely not, he says, “I truly believe Americans should be able to buy whatever they want to protect their homes and families.”

Chances are nothing will be decided before the next Original Fort Worth Gun show, held at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, and scheduled for May.

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