There have been 17 school shootings in 2018 and 290 since the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2013. School and mass shootings are not only community tragedies, but they also highlight the gaps in our gun safety laws and the growing needs to advocate for smart legislation and to preserve both public safety and the rights of responsible gun owners. This white paper discusses the imperative of county advocacy for gun safety measures and how local governance can promote common sense gun law.
On February 14th, 2018 a former student of Stonewall Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. entered the school and killed 17 students and staff members. The shooter had previously been accused of domestic violence, allegedly made threatening comments and purchased his gun legally the United States. The Parkland school shooting demonstrated to Americans, to Harris County, that mass shootings are no longer a matter of if, but when.
Since 2015, Houston has averaged 550 gun-related incidents. This includes crimes as serious as homicide to illegal possession. Gun safety is not about taking away rights or cowering to manufacturers, it is about proactively ensuring gun ownership is treated cautiously to ensure public safety. Without precautions communities are left vulnerable to irresponsible gun ownership.
School and mass shootings are an undeniable reality in our country and by failing to prepare for them Harris County is exposed to the potentials of this type of incident. In addition to gun safety, comprehensive gun safety policies should also include an action plan and immediate response protocol to an active shooter situation.
- As Texas’ largest county we must use our influence to demand there are background checks performed at every gun show in our arenas and convention centers. Currently, there are 20 gun shows scheduled in the Houston area in 2018. If gun shows are unwilling to implement background checks, than they should not be able to use our facilities. Background checks act as a benchmark for gun ownership and research shows that by enforcing them, some states have curbed gun violence up to 40 percent.
- There should be avenues for responsible gun owners to relinquish unused or unneeded weapons, like a gun buy-back program. Gun-related incidents are the second leading cause of child deaths in Harris County. If weapons are no longer needed, there should be a safe and fair pathway for responsible gun owners to turn over guns they no longer want. Fewer guns in homes reduces the possibility of having them stolen by irresponsible and criminal gun users.
- The County must support training and equipment for local law enforcement to confront the possibility of a mass shooting. The County must work with law enforcement to ensure active shooter protocol is clear to law enforcement and that all constables and sheriff’s deputies routinely undergo active shooter training. Research shows that the average active shooter incident lasts 12 minutes. In the interest of public and police safety alike, law enforcement must be well trained and prepared for any unexpected shooter event.