City of Austin furthers effort to control guns

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by JESSICA HOLLOWAY / KVUE News and photojournalist MATT OLSEN

kvue.com

Posted on January 15, 2013 at 6:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 16 at 9:04 AM

AUSTIN -- The City of Austin's Health and Human Services Committee spent the first hour of its Tuesday meeting discussing ways to expand gun control and safety.

"We are taking part in an important discussion that's going on at the national level," said Austin City Council member Mike Martinez.

The committee took part in a question/answer session with Austin Police Assistant Chief Sean Mannix. Mannix says since 2010, Austin police seized more than 780 guns through a buy-back program called Guns for Groceries. Mannix says the weapons seized are either destroyed or used by the police department.

APD also has a firearms unit focused on gun crimes at gun shows and illegal gun smuggling stings. The department is also a member of The Major City Chief's Association, which engages in discussion with Vice President Joe Biden related to legislation requiring states to recognize concealed carry laws and to require background checks at gun shows.

Committee members asked if the City of Austin has statistics on how much gun violence is connected to gun shows. Mannix said, "No, the background of a firearm in Texas is hard to trace."

They asked Mannix what APD is doing to enforce gun lock-up laws in private homes.

"We usually respond after something bad has happened, rather than going into private homes and enforcing laws for citizens who fail to secure their guns," Mannix said.

Andy Mormon, the mayor's chief of staff, says Mayor Lee Leffingwell is one of five mayors in Texas who are part of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition. The group aims to prevent guns from going into the wrong hands, to require every gun buyer pass a criminal background check, to get guns off streets and make gun trafficking a federal crime.

"When the mayor speaks, he speaks for the City of Austin. He represents us," said Martinez.

The committee talked about the Travis County commissioner's decision Tuesday to allow nine more gun show contracts to take place this year. Then it went into executive session to discuss legalities of local gun restrictions.

Ed Scruggs is calling upon City leaders to ban gun shows from Austin public places. On Tuesday he presented the committee with a petition with 346 signatures urging City leaders to ban guns in public places.

Several members of the public spoke at the meeting.

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