Mom whose son inspired Texas law rips Harris Co. DA's handling of cases where child accesses a gun

Lileana Pearson Image
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
DA touts policy on child access to guns despite rare prosecutions
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Dianne Clements, whose son inspired a 1995 law, rips Harris County DA Kim Ogg over her office's rare prosecutions of child access to guns.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- In 1991, Dianne Clements' son was shot and killed by the neighbor's child because a gun was not properly stored.

Unwilling to do nothing, she worked to eventually have a 1995 Texas law passed, making it illegal to leave a firearm accessible to a child.

But all these years later, she's disheartened to once again be back in front of the camera, advocating for child safety.

"Why do I have to keep talking about it? Why are children still dying in these shootings that then are referenced as 'accidental'? They are not accidental. They are 100% preventable. That is the part that is so hard," Clements said.

13 Investigates found that of the 55 Harris County cases since the law passed in 1995, only 18% of adults charged were found guilty of the crime.

When previously questioned back in March 2023, a Harris County District Attorney's Office spokesperson said charges were rare because a parent who has lost their child is already suffering from the worst punishment possible.

SEE MORE: 13 Investigates: Significant jail time rare after kids get hold of guns

That response isn't sitting well with Clements.

"That thinking continues to have children killed. That thinking right there perpetuates the problem," Clements said.

On Tuesday, ABC13 went back to the district attorney's office to address that statement and ask if this is still the position of DA Kim Ogg.

"When it's sufficient to charge an adult for negligent access, we do it. And I have a policy - unlike any other DA in the state - that requires law enforcement to bring in every case where a child is killed through access to a loaded firearm," Ogg said, adding that charges are based on how negligent the adult is considered to be.

She continued, "Negligent access is a misdemeanor, but you can go to jail for up to a year and pay up to a $4,000 fine. And you have to live with the fact that some child died through your negligence. That's some accountability. But reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and injury to a child are other possible charges that carry far greater sentences because they are all felony crimes."

But how does the district attorney decide how negligent someone has been?

"We look at the evidence and each case is different. Example: someone may have hidden a weapon in an inappropriate place, and let's say an older child is looking to harm themselves and they find or locate the weapon. There is some less culpability there than there might be if someone has just finished committing a crime, or just brought their gun in from the car and laid it on the counter and you have toddlers around. Obviously, there are more egregious facts in the second example," Ogg said.

Regardless, Clements said she wants to see more guilty verdicts.

"We should prosecute these cases. Every law enforcement agency in the greater Houston area and across the state of Texas should prosecute these cases," Clements said.

While Ogg said she takes these cases and charges seriously, we've covered eight of these shooting since mid-May, and no charges have been filed in those cases.

SEE ALSO: 1-year-old boy will be OK after he was accidentally shot by 4-year-old brother, HCSO deputies say

In the meantime, Harris County residents can get free gun locks and safes through the DA's office and drop off guns - no questions asked - through the county's gun buyback program.

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