AUSTIN (KXAN) — According to affidavits obtained by KXAN, Austin police have made dozens of arrests for illegally carrying guns over the last week. Despite their efforts to crack down on gun violence, one shooting overnight on Sixth Street sent four people to the hospital.
Last June, a mass shooting in the same area sent 14 to the hospital, and killed another.
Ahead of South by Southwest, Austin Police Department’s Chief Joseph Chacon said the city was surging personnel downtown to prevent gun violence.
“We will have teams that will be conducting proactive criminal investigations related to people carrying guns illegally or committing violent crimes using firearms. They will be targeting individuals, again, illegally carrying to intervene prior to those weapons being used to commit acts of gun violence,” Chacon said during a media briefing before SXSW began.
This week, officers made arrests and seized guns both on-foot in the Entertainment District downtown, which includes East Sixth Street, and during traffic stops in the surrounding area.
This map shows 12 arrests for unlawful carrying of a weapon made in this area, specifically, from March 16 to March 19 alone:
That includes one arrest early Friday morning for illegally carrying on Neches Street and East Sixth, the exact location of the early Sunday morning shooting.
Several other arrests during that same time frame just outside of this vicinity were part of a larger APD effort to reduce gun violence.
In one affidavit, an officer explains, “The team was tasked with enforcement operations in the downtown area of command given the increasing numbers of violent crimes in past years of the South by Southwest music festival.”
In that arrest, on East 15th Street and the Interstate 35 North Frontage Road, officers noted a semi-automatic handgun was found during a traffic stop.
Kenneth Casaday, president of the Austin Police Association, said these arrests and seizures of guns prove APD is working aggressively to address gun violence downtown.
“From what I understand, over the last five days down in the Sixth Street area, they seized over 50 firearms. And then I think 19 last night before we even had a shooting. So I know the officers are doing their jobs, and they have been for a long period of time. The problem is, we’re not prosecuting people, we’re arresting people for felon in possession of a firearm, unlawfully carrying a weapon,” Casaday said.
Going forward, Casaday said he thinks the state should rethink part of its permitless carry law, which was just passed last year.
That law allows any eligible Texan over the age of 21 to carry a gun without a license. But doing away with mandatory licensure also throws away the training that comes with it.
“We require people in the state of Texas to have training before they’re allowed to hunt in the state of Texas. So why don’t we require some type of training to carry a firearm up and down the streets of the city of Austin or anywhere else in the state?” Casaday said Sunday.
Casaday also noted increased gang activity downtown coming in from other cities across the state.
“We do get a lot of gang members from Houston, San Antonio, Killeen, Dallas, that come here to commit crimes. And, you know, we have to stay on top of that, but it’s very hard, we have a department that’s shrinking and not growing, and our cities growing at a rapid pace,” he explained.
“There’s lots of money here, there’s lots of easy targets, you know, most of Austin is a fairly safe place,” Casaday continued.
APD has not yet released the name of the suspected shooter in the early Sunday morning shooting.