By Anna M. Tinsley
Texas officials on Tuesday backed away from a proposal that would have allowed alcohol be sold at some gun shows under strict conditions.
After being inundated for weeks with negative feedback from Texans who believe guns and alcohol don't mix, the state's Alcoholic Beverage Commission withdrew from consideration the proposed plan.
"The agency feels that this issue involves policy issues that are best left to the legislature," said Carolyn Beck, a spokeswoman for the TABC. "We are hoping if it comes up again that it will be addressed by the legislature."
TABC officials began considering a possible rule change earlier this year in order to help the Dallas Safari Club _ the group that drew national attention in the past year for auctioning off a rare permit to hunt and kill an endangered rhino in Namibia _ sell alcohol at the group's annual convention.
At issue was whether alcohol could be served during such an event, or a gun show, if certain conditions, ranging from a prohibition on live ammunition in the area to ensuring that firearms are disabled, were met.
Currently, facilities that hold a liquor license must suspend alcohol sales while a gun show is being set up, held and being taken down, state records show.
After seeking comment from the public on the plan, the agency was deluged with comments from those on both sides of the issue who expressed concerned about what could happen if alcohol was allowed to be sold around guns.
"The responses we received were mostly negative," Beck said. "There was a widespread sentiment among those who go to gun shows and those who are proponents of gun control ... that alcohol and guns don't mix."
Officials with the Dallas Safari Club say it's just as well that the rule change didn't go forward this week.
"The language that had been created wasn't real clear," said Ben Carter, executive director of the club. "There were a lot of misconceptions about what the rule would do."
The goal, he said, was to allow alcohol at his group's annual exposition, which draws tens of thousands of visitors. There, many items _ including guns _ are on display.
But they aren't sold, he said.
"They are showing their products, just as people show hunting vehicles," Carter said. "The (proposed rule change) language was confusing to a lot of people. It's better to come out with something that's well-written.
"Our only disappointment was that we didn't figure out the language was unclear earlier," he said. "I guess we will worry about it down the line."
Any further proposed change likely will go to the legislature, which heads back to work in January, since TABC officials say they don't have the authority to weigh in on this issue, officials say.
During Tuesday's TABC meeting, two members of the commission _ presiding officer Jose Cuevas Jr. of Midland and member Ida Clement Steen of San Antonio _ voted to withdraw the rule at TABC staff's suggestion.
A third member, Steven M. Weinberg of Colleyville, who has ties to the Dallas Safari Club, abstained from the vote. He also recused himself from a vote in July when commissioners voted to publish the proposed changes for public comment.
Terry Holcomb, president of Texas Carry, was among those in the audience for the approximately hourlong meeting Tuesday. He said he attended Tuesday's meeting because he wanted to speak to commissioners about the issue.
"We didn't want alcohol at the gun shows," said Holcomb, of Cold Springs, which is about 250 miles southeast of Fort Worth. "No. 1, that's a fun family event and No. 2, it's not within TABC's authority to regulate firearms. That belongs to the legislature."
He said it was obvious that TABC members didn't want to overstep their authority. "We knew they were going to pull the rule amendment," Holcomb said. "I told them we appreciated their transparency on the issue, their ability to listen to the people. That was refreshing."
This comes at a time when fewer Texans are trying to buy guns, according to federal data.
Between January and August last year, federal officials logged nearly 1.1 million requests from Texas to buy guns, compared with slightly more than 900,000 for the same period this year, data from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives show.
The FBI runs background checks on people wanting to buy firearms, using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.
During the 2013 fiscal year, 229,967 concealed handgun permits _ including 17,029 in Tarrant County _ were issued in Texas, according to Texas Department of Public Safety statistics.
Texans who hold concealed handgun licenses are not allowed to carry their handguns into a bar.
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