Nine children have been killed by guns in the Houston-area this year, according to an analysis of data published by the non-profit organization Gun Violence Archive. That number is among the highest in the U.S.
The Houston area has the third-most gun-related child deaths in the country as of Friday morning. More children have been killed by guns in Orlando than any other U.S. city this year with 11 deaths. Chicago follows closely with 10.
The Houston victims ages range from 2 to 17 and include students like 15-year-old Zuleyma Hernandez.
Hernandez was standing outside a southwest Houston apartment with her father and her boyfriend April 15 when five men who appeared to be gang members confronted them. After a brief exchange, the men opened fire, killing Hernandez.
When it comes to victims under the age of 11, Gun Violence Archive founder Mark Bryant has noticed that their deaths were often a result of them finding a loaded gun, familicide (which is family murder-suicides), or drive-by shootings, he said.
Gyl Switzer, the executive director of Texas Gun Sense, a gun control group, called the Houston deaths 100 percent prevenatable.
“This is not a Houston problem. It’s a Texas problem. It’s something that Texas legislature needs to pay attention to and take action,” Switzer said.
Rick Briscoe is the legislative director for Open Carry Texas, grass roots civil rights organization specializing in First and Second Amendment issues, who believes that one way these types of deaths could be prevented is if children were educated about gun safety. One such program, Briscoe said, is the NRA’s Eddie Eagle Gun Safe program for children in fourth grade or younger.
In Texas, the Child Access Prevention law is aimed at keeping guns legally owned by adults out of the reach of children. The law empowers prosecutors to hold negligent parents legally responsible when their child gets hold of a firearm. Gun control experts contend that parents violating this law are rarely prosecuted because attorneys are hesitant to compound tragedy by punishing grieving families, the Houston Chronicle reported in February following the shooting death of 6-year-old Justin Gooden.
The Gun Violence Archive was formed in 2013 by Bryant, of Kentucky. The organization employs 18 people who help maintain the database, Bryant said. The non-profit was inspired by the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut. The shooting claimed the lives of 20 children.