The state agency charged with regulating the sale, distribution and possession of alcoholic beverages in Texas is proposing new regulations that could drastically affect fundraising events held by charitable organizations as well as the operation of certain shooting clubs and gun shows. While these new regulations were ostensibly drafted to allow alcohol sales at certain events and venues where firearms transactions take place, the plain language of the proposed rule amendments is far-reaching and could have drastic consequences. These proposed rule changes have not been finalized and there will be an opportunity for public comment as the rulemaking process moves forward — for which we encourage you to participate. More information on how to engage is at the end of this alert.
The proposed rules, as currently written, could have a devastating impact on Friends of NRA (FONRA) events in the Lone Star State. These events are organized by hundreds of dedicated volunteers and held roughly twice a week across Texas. Monies raised at these events go to the NRA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, which supports local program funding for youth education, law enforcement training, hunter education, conservation, firearms and marksmanship training and safety.
If you’ve never been to one, a typical FONRA event begins with a reception that includes games, raffles and a silent auction. Attendees, who number in the hundreds for each event, are served dinner and sometimes addressed by a speaker. The evening often ends with a live auction. Firearms are typical prizes or auction items. Alcohol is often sold and served at these events.
Title 16, Part 3, Chapter 36, Rule 36.1 of the Texas Administrative Code governs the possession and sale of firearms at facilities and businesses licensed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC). It allows firearms to be possessed on premises licensed for consumption of alcohol on the premises if the firearm is, (a) possessed for ceremonial or display purposes; (b) disabled from use as a firearm while on the premises; (c) possessed on the licensed premises in connection with charitable fundraising; and (d) remains in the possession, control or supervision of person or persons acting on behalf of the charitable organization sponsoring the fundraising activity.
The organizers of FONRA events have complied with these rules for decades and relied on TABC for guidance and consistent interpretation of the law. From a letter issued by TABC in 1995:
“We are aware that many ‘outdoor’ groups…hold annual banquets at locations such as the Marriott or other places holding a license to sell alcoholic beverages. We have determined, within the meaning of the law and the rules adopted by our commission, that any firearm simply on display at a banquet, function of the charity, or that may be ‘raffled off’ or presented to an outstanding member or officer, would not be in violation if the firearm is rendered incapable of being fired. For example, a trigger guard on a handgun or plugs in the barrel of a shotgun or rifle would suffice.”
From a letter issued by TABC to NRA attorneys in 2003:
“…a disabled firearm may be displayed during a banquet for auction, raffle or sale purposes” and acknowledges that “this situation is different from ‘gun shows’ governed by [current] rule 36.1(a).”
Since the issuance of these letters, agents from TABC have, on occasion, questioned activities at FONRA dinners. Once provided with these letters, events have always been allowed to continue.
We have been unable to identify any law change in the last ten years or any problems with how FONRA dinners or similar events sponsored by other organizations have been conducted that would prompt TABC to propose new rules to severely restrict possible venues they could take place in and require written agreements between organizers of these events and TABC licensees to be filed and approved by TABC thirty days prior to them occurring at these venues!
- Under the proposed changes in regulations, FONRA dinners and similar events with firearms displayed for auction or raffle could no longer be held in private venues such as hotel ballrooms if the property owner has been issued a TABC license – even if the events were dry! And if event organizers wanted to sell or serve alcohol and display firearms as prizes, they would be limited to locations “owned or leased by a governmental entity or non-profit civic, religious, charitable, fraternal, or veterans’ organization.” Governmental entities such as Travis County have recently considered banning gun shows from public facilities entirely. It’s not hard to imagine local officials using their authority or terms of contracts to limit the ability of pro-Second Amendment or pro-sportsmen’s organizations to hold fundraising events where alcohol and firearms are present – even if the event organizers signed written agreements to adhere to the new conditions and limitations being proposed by TABC.