Houston-area residents turned in 559 guns Saturday during the fifth gun buyback event hosted by Harris County Commissioner Lesley Briones in partnership with Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzales and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Participants lined up before the gates opened at 8 a.m. for the drive-thru event at METRO’s Westchase Park and Ride on Harwin Drive. 1,557 gift cards worth nearly $78,000 were distributed to residents who voluntarily turned in unwanted firearms for safe disposal.
The gift cards were funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA).
Participants turned in:
- 155 Semi-Automatic Handguns
- 124 Semi-Automatic Rifles
- 82 Revolvers
- 77 Shotguns
- 59 Rifles (Hunting)
- 58 Non-functioning firearms
- 4 Single-shot guns
“What keeps me up at night is the safety of my three little girls and all children here in Harris County. This gun buyback is one of the many actions we are taking to prevent crime,” said Commissioner Lesley Briones. “We will never know how many youth suicides may have been prevented by turning in these guns. We will never know exactly how many school shootings in this region we may have prevented. We will never know how many domestic violence intimate partner homicides we may have prevented. What we do know is that we are preventing crime in partnership with the community, and I am thankful for every person who joined us today to make our region safer.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, along with Harris County Sheriff’s Office will process each gun and determine whether it was stolen or used in a crime. HCSO will destroy all guns that are not considered evidence in a crime and those that cannot be returned to their rightful owners.
“With all of our strategies, more sheriff’s deputies, more police on the street, utilizing greater technology, gun buyback programs, the safes and locks, all of these efforts work collaboratively,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “When we utilize every tool in our toolbox on behalf of the people we serve, we do get positive results.”
“We’re taking action. We’re not staying idle. We’re moving the needle in a positive direction and our numbers are reflecting that things are moving in the right direction when it comes to gun violence in our community,” said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez.
“When you don’t dispose of them through safe gun buybacks like this where it is law enforcement handling those firearms, they can either end up in the streets or they can end up in pawn shops that are highly unregulated,” said Houston City Councilmember Abbie Kamin. “Bringing them here today is one of ways that each one of us can do our part to address gun violence by making sure guns do not fall into the wrong hands.”
400 gun safes were distributed to buyback participants, courtesy of the Houston Police Department and Spring Branch Management District. The Harris County Sheriff’s Office provided 1000 gun locks.
“These gun safes, while not a permanent storage solution, are a start to keeping dangerous away weapons from criminals and from our children. Keep your weapons safe by keeping them locked in a safe and use gun locks to ensure that our families are safe,” said Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Ernest Garcia.
Gun violence continues to kill more children and young adults than car crashes. In Harris County, homicides committed with firearms were the primary cause of death for children aged 0-17 from 2016 to 2021. Firearm-related offenses among youth increased nearly 40% during that same time.
In September 2022, Harris County Commissioners Court approved nearly $1.1 million in ARPA funding for up to eight gun buyback events.
“There are so many things we can do as individuals and as a community, whether it's legislative or otherwise, to keep our communities safe,” said Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, who voted in support of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021 which funded the gun buyback program. “With the bipartisan Safer Communities Act we have worked on reducing the threat of gun violence through all channels including funding for schools. That was a first step, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to continue the important work of addressing gun violence.”
Over 4,000 guns have been collected and disposed of by Harris County in partnership with the City of Houston in four previous buyback events. This was the second buyback held at METRO’s Westchase Park and Ride location.
“At METRO, safety is a top priority, but we can’t get this done by ourselves. We understand the effectiveness of community partnerships and that is why we are here to support our friends at the County, at the Sheriff’s office, at the city, members of congress, HFD and HPD. Because fighting crime takes teamwork and we are and I am proud to be a part of this team,” said Sanjay Ramabhadran, chairman of METRO’s board of directors.
Harris County’s approach to public safety goes far beyond gun buybacks. In 2022, Harris County Public Health launched the Community Violence Interruption Program (CVIP). This year, Harris County Commissioners Court approved numerous public safety investments, such as the expansion to the Holistic Assistance Response Teams (HART) Program, which connects residents experiencing mental health crises with appropriate services without having to involve public safety officers, freeing law enforcement to respond to violent crimes.
“No one gun buyback event, no one policy action will solve the problem of gun violence,” said Commissioner Briones. “We are committed to a holistic approach and to working across levels of government to create a safer Harris County.”
This event was made possible with support from: Harris County Precinct 4, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, City of Houston, METRO, Houston Fire Department, Houston Police Department, Asian American Peace Officers Association, and Spring Branch Management District.