An analysis of shooting incidents in Houston that resulted in the death or injury of a child found that guns had been safely and securely stored in less than 2% of cases.
Researchers from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center concluded that many of these injuries could have been prevented by "safe firearm storage, increased community education efforts, and other safety measures."
The study, which was published in the April issue of the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, is one of the first comprehensive looks at pediatric gunshot wounds. Researchers looked at 358 patients ranging from 2.5 months to 15 years old who were brought to UT's Houston Level I Trauma Center over a 15-year period. In most cases, the shooting injuries or deaths took place at home with no adult supervision at the time; more than 20 percent of cases were considered accidents. The study found only 12% of patients' families received some type of gun-safety counseling before an incident.
House Bill 316 by Rep. Donna Howard and Senate Bill 1573 by Sen. Carol Alvarado would have created statewide firearm safety and suicide prevention campaigns. The bills would have enacted criminal penalties for gun owners who fail to safely store their weapons at home and would have launched a state awareness campaign around gun safety. The bills have even found Republican allies.
Improving gun storage laws was one of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's main recommendations out of roundtable discussions he convened last spring after the shootings.
Howard said nearly 200,000 children in Texas live in homes with unlocked, loaded guns, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Serving on the Appropriations Committee, Rep. Howard is not one to let something die just because a bill has trouble moving. In this case, she offered a rider in the state budget to promote gun storage safety.
Rider 48 in Article V provides $1 million for the biennium for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to establish and promote a statewide safe gun storage campaign. DPS has a website dedicated to current laws and best practices for firearm storage, but its audience is limited.
This funding allows them to promote gun storage on a statewide level, much like the "Click It or Ticket" or "Don't Mess with Texas" public service announcements that Texans know well. Within this campaign, DPS may only convey messaging that reflects current gun storage laws.