Judge Lina Hidalgo calls on Gov. Greg Abbott to address youth gun violence

Brooke Taylor Image
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
Harris Co. judge calls on Gov. Abbott to address youth gun violence
"If Gov. Abbott can call three special sessions to make it harder for people to vote, surely he can call a special session to keep our kids from being massacred in their schools," Lina Hidalgo said.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo is calling on Texas lawmakers to address gun violence involving children.

Hidalgo said while the county has taken measures to protect children, it is time for changes to be made at the state level.

"This is a daily issue. The issue of gun violence, and particularly the issue of gun violence against children," Hidalgo said. "It's a daily drumbeat of gun violence. Devastating our community, hurting our kids, killing our kids many times."

She noted that just Tuesday morning, three juveniles were shot in southeast Houston. A 14-year-old boy is in critical condition.

READ MORE: 3 teenagers shot by masked gunman while sitting on curb in SE Houston, police say

In less than two days, at least five kids across the Houston area have been the victims of gun violence. The two youngest victims both died from their injuries.

Hidalgo said the Senate announcement of a framework for a bipartisan response to recent mass shootings signals real progress, but more can be done in Texas.

"If Gov. (Greg) Abbott can call three special sessions to make it harder for people to vote, surely he can call a special session to keep our kids from being massacred in their schools," Hidalgo said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Hidalgo called upon state lawmakers to consider common-sense gun laws in a special session, including ideas that many Texans support like raising the age for firearm purchases from 18 to 21, passing red flag and background check laws, and requiring training for a license to carry.

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"With schools starting back up in 10 weeks, there is also an element of emergency that leads us to focus back on the state level," Hidalgo said. "Our children don't have time to wait for all of these incremental steps on gun safety policies."

With Commissioner Rodney Ellis by her side, Hidalgo also introduced a proposal to direct a study on youth gun violence in Harris County.

She said identifying trouble spots in the area would help authorities find additional evidence-based ways to address gun violence.

Data from the CDC shows homicides involving guns increased by 33% from 2019 to 2020, making it the leading cause of death for children in the U.S.

In Harris County, Hidalgo said firearms account for the second-most frequent cause of pediatric death in children between 0 and 17, behind unexplained sudden deaths.

She said in 2022, the county is on track to surpass last year's number of youth deaths to gun violence.

RELATED: Harris County announces $4 million Youth Reinvestment Fund to combat youth gun violence

WATCH PRESS CONFERENCE: The focus for the new fund is eliminating gun violence before it happens and putting money back into grassroots organizations that can help at-risk youth.

"You'd think after decades of enduring tragedies like Uvalde, like Sutherland Springs, Santa Fe, El Paso, that the state would have course corrected. But instead, we all know they moved in the opposite direction, passing permitless carry," Hidalgo said. "This is a chance to correct that. This is the time. When Texans are watching, when Texans are asking for change, when kids are about to go back to school, when we know calling a special session is so easy it happened three times just last year, a couple years ago."

Gov. Abbott has yet to weigh directly on Hidalgo's calls for a special session for youth gun violence. While he has called on and backed various measures to address campus safety after the Uvalde school shooting, he has been criticized over loosening gun laws in the wake of similar massacres in recent history.

Abbott called on a "red flag" law in the wake of the 2018 Santa Fe school shooting, but wound up backing off of pursuing a measure under pressure from gun rights activists and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Instead, the Texas Tribune reports that Texas ended up passing laws more focused on boosting mental health resources and giving teachers more access to guns on public school campuses.

Abbott again floated expanding background checks to include stranger-to-stranger gun sales following the 2019 El Paso shooting, but legislation steered toward open constitution carry without revisiting expanded checks.

The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.

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