TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Travis County commissioners unanimously voted to declare this month ‘gun violence awareness month.”
The vote comes one day before a county gun violence summit is scheduled and a couple of weeks after 19 students and two teachers were shot and killed three hours from the Texas capital in Uvalde, Texas.
“Travis County is not immune from the national gun violence trend,” Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez said.
To highlight the dangers of gun violence even against law enforcement, Hernandez used an example from the weekend where she said TCSO had a suspect pull a gun out during a traffic stop. She said nobody was injured, but that multiple guns and meth were found in the vehicle after the person was arrested.
Hernandez also said burglaries of unlocked vehicles are increasing and that stolen guns are “a big part of the problem.” She didn’t provide exact data before Travis County commissioners Tuesday, but will be presenting more on the problem Wednesday when Travis County hosts its gun violence summit.
Travis County Judge Andy Brown, Travis County District Attorney José Garza and Mayor Pro Tem Alison Alter will host the summit, according to a release. Hernandez, along with Mayor Steve Adler, Travis County Attorney Delia Garzia and Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon will be in attendance.
The summit itself was closed to the public, but each of the city and county leaders answered questions from reporters before it started. We asked Chacon what he hoped to tangibly see come from the meeting.
“What has often been the case in my opinion is that there’s a lot of talk and we don’t see things change very much,” Chacon said. “So there’s got to be clear action on the part of all involved to make sure we are not only preventing gun crime but that we’re also holding those that commit gun crimes accountable.”
“I’ve got two kids, one in elementary school, one in preschool, seven and a five-year-old. When my wife and I take them to school every day, especially now, after what happened this week, it makes me sad, it makes me horrified that other parents have suffered in that way,” Brown told KXAN. “It is beyond time to act on it.”
Responsible Gun ownership
Elected officials and local law enforcement say curbing gun violence starts with examining where it stems from in Austin and Travis County.
“We know that what we see are a lot of domestic violence situations and disputes and suicides, gun storage challenges, individual murders and actions that involve guns that were stolen,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Alison Alter.
Hernandez supplemented Alter’s sentiment, stating that in many cases – guns are taken from people’s cars.
“If your laptop gets taken out of your car because it’s unlocked it doesn’t cause a devastating or deadly thing,” she said. “But if your gun gets stolen out of an unlocked car, it causes homicides.”
As did Chacon.
“Something I’ve been talking about for a long time is responsible gun ownership,” he said. “Having owners that really are safely storing their weapons and making sure those weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands.”
We asked Central Texas Gun Works owner Michael Cargill about these challenges.
“You need to make sure you lock your firearms up,” he said. “Don’t leave your car in your unlocked vehicles overnight. A lot of people get guns from unlocked vehicles, break into cars and steal guns. So remove them from the vehicle, bring them into the house at night. Make sure you lock them away from kids.”