On Dec. 17, 2017, Adrienne Lambert went to a friend's house in Deer Park. On the kitchen table sat a gun that neither of the 14-year-olds thought was loaded, as it had been left out just 15 yards away from the family's gun safe. Adrienne's friend picked it up and pulled the trigger. Adrienne was shot in the chest and killed.
On Thursday, Adrienne's mother, Marentha Sargent, stood behind a podium at Congregation Beth Israel in southwest Houston, where a coalition of faith leaders, city council members, police officers and nonprofit organizers announced the launch of what they hope will be a life-saving resource for gun owners in Houston: houstongunsafety,org.
"What happened to my daughter was so preventable," said Sargent. "It's very important for us, as adults, to protect our children and lock up our firearms."
The website is meant to provide gun safety tips as well as information about local gun buyback programs and how to get a free safe gun storage kit. In addition to the website, Clear Channel, an advertising company based in San Antonio, has also donated Houston-area billboards in order to raise awareness for the cause.
The initiative started with a community outreach committee at Congregation Beth Israel and leaders at Houston's Minaret Foundation, a multi-faith organization that works to promote social change and civic engagement.
"In Judaism and in Islam, we both share a very familiar statement which says, ‘To save one life is to save the entire world,' and that's our purpose in gun safety," said David Lyon, senior Rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel. "As long as we're entitled to have them, we must be able to use them wisely."
The faith groups set out to create a platform in which other entities can join and educate the public to address the gun violence epidemic and the ways in which it touches the Houston area.
In 2020, gun violence surpassed automobile accidents as the leading cause of death for children in the United States, many of whom are killed by accident as a result of improper gun storage and security. In 2022 alone, a record 6,000 children in the United States were killed or injured in shootings, according to the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive.
"A lot of times in our homes, we may not be aware that our kids actually know where our firearms are stored," said Abbie Kamin, Houston City Council member from District C and chair of public safety and homeland security for the city of Houston. "For kids between the ages of five and 14, if there's a gun in the home, one in 5 children have handled that firearm without their parents' knowledge."
Kamin says she has allocated $75,000 for her district in partnership with the Houston Police Department, the mayor's office and violence reduction nonprofit One Safe Houston in order to distribute free gun locks and educational materials at several local parent-teacher organizations.
Houston has seen a surge in guns reported stolen from automobiles around the city. In 2022, the Houston Police Department reported a 19% increase in guns stolen from vehicles compared to 2021. Last year, a total of 4,401 guns stolen from vehicles were reported in Houston — more than 10 per day.
"The spike in gun violence around the country has not spared Houston. Sixty-three people in Harris County have been murdered in the first 45 days of this year, many by gun violence," said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg. "Let's not make it easy for criminals. Let's store guns safely."
Experts urge residents to stop storing firearms in their vehicles if they are unsecured. Houston police Department will be distributing gun safes at its monthly Positive Interaction Program at each one of its patrol stations in the coming weeks. On Saturday, Feb.18, there will be a gun buyback event hosted by the Houston Police Department and Harris County Sheriff's office at Alexander Deussen Park from 8 a.m. to noon for those who have unwanted firearms that they want to get rid of safely.