Harris County

Harris County Unveils New Gun Safety Measures

The steps include expanding the Safe Surrender Program to get guns out of the hands of those charged with domestic violence.

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Harris County leaders have announced new gun safety measures, following months of vetting to make sure the county doesn't run afoul of state-level restrictions on local gun controls.

The Safe Surrender Program requires people under protective orders in domestic violence cases to temporarily surrender their firearms. County Commissioners plan to expand the program, now in use in one district court, to cover all 22 state felony courts in the county.

"In domestic violence cases with a protective order, folks are supposed to surrender their guns, but there was no process for that. So we worked with our sheriff, with our courts, and now there will be a system for law enforcement to be able to take those weapons while that protective order is in place," said County Judge Lina Hidalgo.

The county has also reduced the time it takes to report criminal convictions to the Department of Public Safety from 10 days to five. That will speed up the registration of offenders with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), used to prevent criminals from purchasing firearms. Gov. Greg Abbott had called on all Texas counties to achieve 10-day reporting of convictions to DPS by 2021.

"The most dangerous time is when a conviction is first heard," said Harris County District Clerk Marilyn Burgess. "The days after that immediately is when someone wants to retaliate and go out and purchase a gun. By getting this information in faster, we'll make a difference in our community."

Other measures include making gun safety locks more easily available and conducting public health research into gun violence.

One proposal the county had considered, but will not pursue, would be the banning of gun shows on county-owned properties, such as NRG Park. Judge Hidalgo said state law prohibits the county from taking such action.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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