AUSTIN (KXAN) — The next action item in Austin City Council Member Kathie Tovo’s Safer Sixth Street Initiative includes adding 13 HALO cameras downtown and calls for the purchase of metal detectors.
The Safer Sixth Street initiative was launched in response to the June 2021 mass shooting. Updates will be discussed at Thursday’s meeting.
According to a draft of the resolution, these would be handheld detector wands for certain businesses in the Sixth Street and Rainey Street districts. It asks the City Manager to survey bar owners in both districts to “gauge interest in the City purchasing and distributing hand-held metal detector wants to willing and interested establishments in a manner that provides a public purpose and in alignment with requirements for the use of City Funds.”
The resolution gave the City Manager a deadline of July 15 to report back with the findings of the survey and a cost estimate.
“We’re looking for any and all options,” Tovo said. “This is actually a recommendation that was made by a community member who felt offering the wands to bar owners might be of real value.”
Gary Manley, the owner of Iron Cactus on Sixth Street, said Tovo’s office recently sent business owners an email about the cameras and the metal detectors.
“I am all for adding more HALO cameras, I think it’s a good idea,” he said in his response. “I would not be looking to use handheld metal detectors at my restaurant, I’m not sure that would help anything as carrying a handgun is legal.”
According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), guns are not allowed inside businesses that generate at least 51% of their revenue from on-site alcohol consumption. Such businesses have to post a 51% sign prohibiting patrons from carrying handguns onto the property. Businesses can also display voluntary signs that prohibit firearms.
“Some [bars] are functioning under restaurant code, so guns are allowed,” Tovo said. “And so this would provide businesses with additional information about who within the property might be carrying a gun or a weapon.”
Shawn Cirkiel, who owns several businesses downtown including Parkside on Sixth Street, and is the president of the Pecan Street Owners Association, says he thinks city leaders should instead be focusing on ways to break up the crowds that congregate on Sixth Street around closing time at bars.
“These ideas for security wands are for what purpose? Is any violence happening inside of the bars or restaurants or retail or is it happening in the street late at night?” he said. “If someone is walking down the street with a gun, they’re legally allowed to have one, so what good is a metal detector?”
Tovo said the hope is that the metal detectors discourage people from bringing guns to the entertainment district altogether.
“Our hope is that it will deter people from bringing firearms down to Sixth Street,” she said.”We want to use every strategy available to us to make sure we’re discouraging people bringing guns.”
As for the HALO cameras, the deadline for more information from the City Manager’s Office is June 15.