September 27, 2023

Where Am I Safe

By: Laisha Harris

HOUSTON-Thursday, May 12, 80-100 rounds were fired at a nightclub near Inwood Apartments and a sleeping 12-year-old was shot. Ironically, nobody was killed in Houston on Friday the 13th. On Saturday, while Payton Gendron was livestreaming the racially motivated slaughter of innocent Black people at a Buffalo New York grocery store, we experienced our own losses due to gun violence. In East End, a young man shoots his girlfriend before turning the gun onto himself. Early Sunday morning, a 16-year-old was shot eight times near a shopping center on Westheimer. A mother and her 11-year-old son were shot in a drive-by shooting on Roth Forest Lane. By the afternoon, there were reports of mass shootings in South Carolina, California, and the Houston flea market. While we are entitled to the right to bear arms, gun violence is erupting, corrupting, and destroying our communities.

Last September, Texas legislatures changed the laws regarding carrying a firearm without a license. That means that if you are over the age of 21, you no longer need a license to carry (LTC) a handgun in a public place. In 2021, the city of Houston had 473 people killed by another person. This year, there have been more than 100 homicides within city limits. With COVID cases, gas prices and violent crimes on the rise, many are feeling much safer staying indoors. “I seriously have mixed feelings about going places right now. If I’m not feeling daunted by the police, I’m worried about getting shot by my own people,” says Antonia Hall. While Houston reacts to the racially motivated violence in Buffalo, we have to come to terms with what we are doing to our own people.

“People just get mad and start doing shooting. And it’s not always grown men or women, there are kids killing kids. How do they even get access to a gun?” asks Hall. We talked about 19-year-old Keandre Jackson who was arrested for the drive-by shooting of a mother and son. Two middle school kids get into an argument over a girl. Now, there’s an 11-year-old with a bullet lodged in his neck, possibly paralyzed from the waist down.  Earlier in May, an older man was shot and killed by teenagers on Fulton and Crosstimbers. “These kids are getting these guns from somewhere. They’re roaming the streets and wreaking havoc like there aren’t consequences to their actions. I can’t even say ‘where are their parents?’ because they probably see the road rage incidents or shooting of unarmed people and think they can get away with it.”

Mayor Sylvester Turner has expressed commitment to combat crime with the One Safe Houston crime reduction initiative. With this initiative, $44.6 million is being invested into the police departments, surveillance technology and improved lighting on stores and streets. Included in the plan would be a gun buy-back program to remove the abundance of illegal weapons off the streets. Mayor Turner and Houston Police Chief Troy Finner went to Washington D.C. where President Joe Biden recognized the impact of the One Safe Houston plan.

While these plans are initiatives, I am inclined to remind you that we get to choose who represents the values in our community. There are twice as many Republicans running than Democrats.  Tuesday, May 24 is election day for the primaries in Harris County. In the primary, we get to choose a representative to be on the November ballot. I implore you. Take your voice to the polls and vote. The lives of our children and the safety of our streets depends on it.

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