It’s difficult for local Texas governments to regulate firearms in an attempt to reduce gun violence, but the City Council’s Public Safety Committee wants to give it a shot.
The Committee voted Tuesday to explore five possible avenues for regulation despite facing what could be an uphill battle in passing such governance.
Councilman William “Cruz” Shaw (D2) sparked the conversation following the May 18 mass shooting at a Santa Fe, Texas high school that left 10 dead and 10 more injured.
Deputy City Attorney Edward Guzman informed the Committee members that while state law preempts most local ordinances, there are ways to get gun regulations passed, including through the City’s zoning laws, conditions for releasing defendants from jail on bond, conditions of procurement of city business, conditions for City incentives, and the pursuit of State legislative action.
Shaw, Councilman John Courage (D9), Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7), and Councilman Clayton Perry (D10) all voted in favor of a motion to see the creation of ordinances through those five available avenues with a special focus on zoning and bond conditions, to be revealed at a future date.
Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) cast the lone dissenting vote against pursuing additional local ordinances, arguing that the City seemed to be seeking measures to limit responsible and legal gun ownership. He also said in his opening remarks that he appreciated what Shaw was trying to do “over there” in District 2 with conditions of gun violence that “my district doesn’t live in.”
“Timeout,” Shaw immediately responded. “Crime happens all over the city, not just District 2.”
Brockhouse said he made his comments based on previous conversations with Shaw on reducing gun violence in District 2. He maintained that he believed the issue had to do with reducing gun violence in the Eastside district and that none of the proposed regulations target acts of mass violence.
Shaw later told the Rivard Report that he believed Brockhouse’s statement to be “a very simplistic answer.”
“There’s so many different tragedies that occur as a result of gun violence, and mass shootings are just one of them,” he said.
To that point, Courage’s concerns addressed a need to regulate gun violence as a whole and asked about a potential gun buyback program whereby the San Antonio Police Department pays cash for guns. SAPD Chief William McManus told Courage that such a program already exists and that it’s largely unsuccessful at recovering guns typically used in violent crimes. He added that since the beginning of 2018, SAPD has captured 2,500 guns and that a violent crimes task force has seized 700.
Courage took it a step further saying the Committee should adopt regulation where people accused of violent crimes, including various forms of abuse and robbery and are released on bond, should not be able to purchase a firearm in Bexar County.
“I think that for the public safety and the community, the judges should tell them you are no longer able to carry a gun,” Courage said. “We’re not saying you are guilty, we’re saying for public safety, because of the crime that you’re being accused of, the condition of the bond should be you may not carry a weapon … [or] possess a weapon. I just think that makes sense to just about everybody.”
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Guzman stressed other talking points, including revising the City’s incentive guidelines so that it doesn’t reward companies that don’t align with city policies regarding gun safety. He also noted the City could create a zoning category for firearm sales and limit the sales to a particular district, such as a C-3 general commercial district. Courage supported this idea and expressed concern that there aren’t already regulations keeping firearms stores at least 300 feet away from schools similar to liquor store regulations.
“Lord knows we don’t want kids drinking alcohol by the school,” Courage said. “We sure don’t want somebody walking in to buy a gun and walking over to the school next door.”