Never Stop: Ending Gun Violence

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Five actions our city can take NOW to curb gun violence.

The national gun violence epidemic has swelled to overwhelming proportions in recent years, and Houston is far from immune. Since 2015, Houstonians have suffered from approximately 550 gun-related incidents each year. Last year, 20 children died at the hands of guns in the Houston area. And on May 18, 2018, a school shooting in the neighboring city of Santa Fe took the lives of eight students and two teachers.

While state and federal governments are gridlocked – or worse, create obstacles to solving the crisis—Abbie Kamin knows we can never stop fighting to keep our city and our families safe.

As a member of the Mayor’s Commission Against Gun Violence—a coalition of community leaders formed in the wake of several devastating high school shootings across the country—Abbie helped research and compile a series of actions the city could take now, without state or federal action, to mitigate the effects of gun violence in Houston.

As our next District C councilmember, Abbie will push the city to take these five actions now: 

  1. Closing the background check “gun show” loophole in the city limits

  2. Convening an annual school safety conference

  3. Organizing firearm public safety education campaigns

  4. Advocating for increased school and community safety measures

  5. Investing in hospital-based and community-based mental health resources 

Closing the background check “gun show” loophole in the city limits

Federal law requires all licensed firearms vendors to conduct a background check prior to completing a gun sale. Research substantiates that background checks are effective at saving lives: A Connecticut law requiring background checks for handgun purchases correlated with a 40 percent reduction in the state’s gun homicide rate and a 15 percent reduction in the state’s suicide rate. And background checks are vastly popular: 93 percent of Texans and 92 percent of Texan gun owners support background checks for all gun transactions.

A major loophole, however, known widely as the “gun show” loophole, allows individuals in the State of Texas to avoid a background check by purchasing a firearm from an unlicensed seller at gun shows. A 2017 study estimated that 22 percent of gun owners who obtained a firearm since 2015 did so without first undergoing a background check. Over the last 25 years, background checks have kept guns away from 3.5 million violent criminals and other prohibited individuals—which is why we must close the loophole in Houston.

Abbie will work with the City and relevant stakeholders to close the gun-show loophole in Houston by using modified contracts for city-owned venues that lease city property for gun shows. These adapted contracts will require background checks on all firearms transactions that occur on Houston property, meaning that gun shows must either require all vendors to be licensed, or require unlicensed vendors to facilitate a background check through a third party. 

Additionally, Abbie proposes that the city council collaborate with permitting entities, such as the Houston Fire Department, to require that gun shows in city limits acquire a permit ensuring that during their event, a background check precedes all gun sales, and that all gun sales are recorded. 

Creating an annual, city-wide school safety conference

In order to best protect our children and ensure their right to attend school safely, city leaders  must communicate, coordinate, and remain informed about all methods of school gun violence prevention. The recent lockdown and shooting of students outside of Lamar High School served as a stark reminder that we must ensure schools are informed and up-to-date on how to prevent and respond to gun violence in our District, and around the city.

That’s why Abbie is proposing that the city establish an annual city-wide school safety conference that will include:

  • School board members

  • Educators and counselors

  • Law enforcement officers

  • Elected officials

  • Gun violence prevention experts

  • Non-profit organizations combating gun violence

  • Health care professionals (particularly those who treat trauma injuries and mental health)

  • Gun violence victims

  • Community organizers 

These diverse community leaders would be brought together to discuss and share ideas, and learn from experts about best practices for de-escalating violent situations, identifying warning signs in students, using social media to assess school threats, contacting law enforcement and quickly securing classrooms in the event of gun violence, and implementing school programs to treat youth exposed to gun violence and promote mental health awareness. The conference will also serve as an opportunity to examine gun violence research and learn about new technology (such as systems in schools that immediately notify individuals of a threat on campus).  

Bringing key groups together annually will help ensure that schools and law enforcement are in sync and well-educated in combating gun violence. This has been done before. Organizations and institutions across the country orchestrate conferences to examine the reaches of gun violence and train community leaders to most effectively implement safety measures in schools. Examples include the National School Safety Conference and Exposition and the Texas School Safety Conference.

Organizing firearm public safety education campaigns

In Harris County, firearms are the second leading cause of accidental death for minors, deaths that typically occur when children obtain poorly stored firearms. Despite a 1996 study showing that 89 percent of unintentional adolescent firearm injuries  occurred at home, 4.6 million American children live in homes with an unlocked, loaded firearm. 

Abbie proposes a city-wide campaign for safe gun storage, which would bring together various city departments to create public service announcements and local media messages that raise awareness about the fatal hazard of keeping firearms unlocked in the home. She will also push for regional partners to join the effort, such as the surrounding cities and counties.

Abbie is also proposing that schools teach student-appropriate education courses on gun safety and the risks of firearms.  

Advocating for increased school and community safety measures

As a committed, life-long advocate for the well-being of others, Abbie is determined to use her position on city council to protect  communities most at-risk of gun violence. 

All youth have the right to live and learn in safe environments, unimpeded by fear. Yet our children are becoming normalized to the unrelenting shootings in their schools. Since 2013, students in the U.S. have suffered 456 incidents of gunfire on their school campuses. Abbie will work to make sure that Houston police have sufficient resources to collaborate with HISD in devising thorough security plans for school campuses, so that officers can best foster safe academic climates. 

Abbie will work to facilitate continual dialogue, between the city and Houston-area school districts, about the necessary actions schools can take to curtail the threat of gun violence. Abbie will also urge the state to mandate that all schools perform drills, preparing  students to protect themselves, as best as possible, in the event of an attack. 

Abbie supports community intervention as a means of addressing areas with high levels of gun violence, empowering community and neighborhood leaders to establish intervention programs that serve those most at risk of experiencing gun violence. Gun violence, whether in schools or on the streets, disproportionately impacts Black, Hispanic, and Latinx youth—who are 14 times and 3 times, respectively, more likely to be killed by firearms than their white counterparts. It is imperative that we do more to confront gun violence in our marginalized communities. Abbie will join with community leaders to increase financial, educational, and health resources to take action against exposure to gun violence in predominantly Black, Hispanic, and Latinx neighborhoods and schools. 

Investing in hospital-based and community-based mental health resources

Guns are used in the majority of all suicides that occur in Texas, and the rate of suicide by firearms in the state has risen 18 percent over the last ten years

A holistic approach to the issue of gun violence requires an expansion of mental health resources. 

Abbie will fight for more state funding to develop successful, lifesaving mental health programs around the city. Abbie will seek to allocate money towards both hospital-based and community-based intervention programs that connect at risk individuals with vital suicide prevention resources. And to ensure that accessible resources exist for all youth, Abbie supports funding highly trained mental health professionals to evaluate and counsel students in the school setting.