By Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo
Over the past month, our nation has yet again endured violent deaths from mass shootings and gun violence. In Buffalo, we all witnessed the brutal attack driven by racism and hate that left 13 people dead at a grocery store. 17 people were shot during a mass shooting in downtown Milwaukee. And we are all still mourning the loss of two teachers and 19 innocent children murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. This violence shows no sign of letting up – between May 24th, the day of the Uvalde tragedy, and June 6th, there have been 33 additional mass shootings, including multiple mass shootings here in Harris County. No one is immune from this bloody plague.
Today, our nation and our county is in the midst of a vital conversation about violent crime and what needs to be done to prevent it. The truth is, we cannot talk about addressing violent crime without talking about the role that guns play in fueling it. On the same day as the tragedy in Uvalde, we released new data from Harris County’s Institute for Forensic Sciences from which the conclusion could not be more clear – we are not just suffering from a rise in homicides, but also from a rise in the percentage of homicides caused by guns. In 2018, gunshot wounds caused 76% of homicides in Harris County. In 2021, that number was 84%. This year’s percentage is at 87%. And we aren’t unique. Statewide, the rate of gun homicides in Texas increased 90% between 2011 and 2020, from a little over 3 deaths per 100,000 people to about 6 deaths per 100,000.