Back to mobile

A Few of Houston’s Accidental Gun Deaths

by Published on

The renewed debate over gun control has lately settled into two broad camps: those who think more guns in the right hands would reduce violence, and those who think fewer guns overall would reduce violence.

Texas politicians, predictably, have come out in favor of more guns, particularly in the hands of schoolteachers: Gov. Rick Perry, state Rep.-elect Jason Villalba of Dallas, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, and suburban Houston’s own state Rep. Debbie Riddle all support arming teachers. This morning, NRA executive Wayne LaPierre held a press conference calling for armed guards in schools, neglecting to mention that Columbine High School had an armed guard and that Fort Hood had a great many armed personnel present. (And, as an apparent Christmas gift to the Internet, LaPierre blamed violence on hurricanes and video games like Mortal Kombat, which features ninjas and fireballs but no guns.)

But the more-guns argument is predicated on the belief that non-criminal citizens with guns can be relied upon to secure their weapons and use them safely. Otherwise, why would you introduce a gun for every 20 or 30 kids in a school, right?

Looking back on the Houston area’s year in firearms casts doubt on that assumption. A few illustrative selections from Dateline Houston’s files:

March 22: A man in Jacinto City killed himself accidentally when one of the shots he fired in the air hit him in the neck.

June 13: A 17-year-old boy in Alamo died when a bullet he fired at a butane tank ricocheted and hit his head.

June 17: A 24-year-old woman in south Houston was killed when her brother accidentally dropped the gun he was carrying.

July 31: A 12-year-old boy in Waller County accidentally shot and killed his 11-year-old brother with a 12-gauge shotgun after finding it and another shotgun in their parents’ closet. The parents thought the closet was locked.

November 13: A young man in southeast Houston died after he and a neighbor were comparing their guns and one gun accidentally discharged.

Dec 12: A 4-year-old boy in northeast Houston shot himself after climbing on top of his parents’ tall furniture chest and finding a gun kept there for home security. Both parents were home and thought the child was in bed.

Then there are the situations that might not have ended in death if guns hadn’t been present.

Yesterday, a 20-year-old man allegedly shot and killed a 30-year-old woman during a road-rage confrontation in far southwest Harris County.

And on Dec 11, a 17-year-old died after being shot by his neighbor during an argument over sneakers.

One could go on.

As our politicians lather up their arguments about how guns make us safer, Dateline Houston hopes they’ll remember how things work in real life, not just in the black-hat-white-hat world they imagine.

Emily DePrang joined The Texas Observer in 2011 as a staff writer covering criminal justice and public health. Before that, she was nonfiction editor of the Sonora Review. Before that, she was a waitress. She's also appeared in The Atlantic, Salon.com, and VICE. She holds an MFA in Nonfiction from the University of Arizona and has won some things, including the Public Service Award from the Society of Professional Journalists (2012), the National Health Journalism Fellowship from USC Annenberg (2013), and a nomination for a National Magazine Award in Reporting (2014). She still sometimes thinks about waitressing.