District Attorney Kim Ogg speaks at the site of a new digital billboard in Humble. (Rachel Carlton/Community Impact Newspaper)
Twenty-five billboards across north Houston—with messaging in both English and Spanish—will encourage residents to secure their guns at what Ogg says is a critical time.
“Thousands of children are getting out of school right now or are already enjoying summer vacation, and routines are changing,” Ogg said. “It’s important as parents that we recognize the necessity to ensure our kids’ safeties not just in our own home, but with others’ in other people’s homes and cars.”
The billboards—which were donated by Clear Channel Outdoor—are already live throughout the region, with some funding for the campaign coming from district attorney’s office criminal forfeiture revenues.
Major Quincy Whitaker from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said there were 11 incidents of accidental shooting involving minors in Harris County between January 2020 and May 2022, one resulting in the murder of a child on school grounds. However, Dr. Bindi Naik-Mathuria—the lead researcher for a Baylor College of Medicine study funded with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—reported a higher number, saying that there were 40 accidental shootings by children in Harris County in 2021.
Mathuria said she is in the process of collecting accurate and comprehensive data, saying that mortality data does not cover the full picture of gun-related injuries. As a trauma surgeon, she said children sustain injuries that are not necessarily accounted for in the data.
Emphasizing safe storage
Marentha Sargent, whose daughter Adrienne was accidentally shot and killed in 2017 due to negligent gun storage, said she gives away a biometric gun safe each month through her organization Gun Safety 4 Adrienne Lambert.
When the safe is not donated, the organization pays for them out of pocket.
“It’s $120 to save a life,” Sargent said. “I will pay $120 a month for the rest of my life if I can save all of these babies. We have to do everything we can to store these firearms safely. I don’t want this happening to any more families.”
Larry Satterwhite, executive assistant chief of the Houston Police Department, urged the public to help drive down gun violence by securing their firearms. He emphasized investing in gun safes for vehicles, as well as removing stickers from windshields that could suggest the driver keeps a gun inside the vehicle.
“Criminals know how to go into cars and go under seats, and they know how to get into glove compartments and consoles,” Satterwhite said. “The simple locks that they have are not secure enough in most cases to secure those firearms.
Satterwhite reported over 2,800 guns stolen from vehicles in Houston in 2020 and almost 3,700 in 2021, adding that trends from HPD’s data suggest over 4,000 guns will be stolen this year.
Ogg called on Gov. Greg Abbott to convene a special legislative session in the wake of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, stating she believes gun violence prevention is a nonpartisan issue.
“Firearm violence can be prevented,” Ogg said. “We can do more about mental health and individuals’ access to weapons… and the age at which somebody can buy a firearm. We can protect ourselves. And mainly, we can protect our children.”