In Houston, a company called High Caliber Gun & Knife Shows runs gun shows in the George R. Brown Convention Center. They’re also having a show this weekend. (You may remember High Caliber from High Caliber v. Houston, aka “the city of Houston got their ass whipped and had to pay High Caliber’s legal fees”.)
Gun shows have security, like pretty much any public gathering; rock concert, biker rally, gun show. Gun shows do not generally hire the Hells Angels to provide security; in Austin, Saxet uses APD officers (who I believe are off-duty, but in uniform). In Houston, High Caliber uses off-duty Houston police officers.
At least they did until this past week.
[Mary] Bean [co-owner of High Caliber – DB] said that off-duty Houston police officers who have provided security for her shows for many years were barred this week from performing their normal duties, such as tying patrons’ guns so they can’t be dry-fired, ensuring guns are unloaded, and walking the aisles, providing a presence at the show.
Houston Police Officers Union president Ray Hunt said the officers were prevented from carrying out these duties because they violate department policies regarding off-duty jobs. The gun show’s rules are that people can’t bring a concealed handgun into the show, but state law allows patrons to do so. That makes the show’s decision a house rule, he said, and HPD policy prohibits its officers from enforcing house rules.
This whole “state law” versus “house rule” thing doesn’t pass the smell test with me. Texas state concealed carry law allows a business to ban the carrying of concealed handguns, if they post a sign to that effect at the entrance or entrances. The sign has to meet specific wording and legibility requirements; we in Texas colloquially refer to them as “30.06 signs” after the relevant section of Texas law.
I haven’t been to a High Caliber show in Houston, but the Saxet shows in Austin have 30.06 signs posted at the entrances; I assume High Caliber does as well, which to me puts things firmly into the “state law” versus “house rule” category.
“It’s not that they were suspended for any reason for danger to the public or danger to the officers. It was simply that they were being asked to enforce a rule that is not a law, and we can’t do that,” Hunt said. “When it’s brought to our attention that house rules are being enforced, we make sure that that policy is changed. If the officer can’t enforce house rules, why would the vendor want to pay them?”
I wonder if off-duty police officers enforce “rules” that are not “laws” in other venues? For example, do off-duty police officers confiscate cameras and recording devices at rock concerts?
According to the HouChron, High Caliber has managed to get security from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, which doesn’t seem to have a problem with the whole “house rules” thing.
Quoth Union chief Hunt again:
“A police officer may not think they’re enforcing a house rule by checking a gun and tying it, but I can tell you — and I’m on the labor side — that I would not want an officer handling a large number of guns handed to them by citizens who may or may not have had adequate training on that gun,” he said. “I’m betting something was brought to someone’s attention.”
Sounds like “only ones syndrome” again, doesn’t it? Also makes me wonder: I don’t see any indication that any of the officers working security complained. I wonder if somebody – perhaps on the city council or in the mayor’s office – put some pressure on Union chief Hunt. I don’t have any evidence for that yet; this is purely speculative.