Commissioners Court Considers Expansion of “Safe Surrender” Program to Protect Victims of Domestic Violence
Harris County, Texas – October 29, 2019, The expansion of a weapon-surrender program designed to protect victims of domestic violence was among several gun-safety initiatives announced by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez Tuesday at Commissioners Court. The proposal would extend the “Safe Surrender” program to all 22 felony district courts.
The program, which was piloted in the 280th family court, requires those charged with domestic violence to surrender their weapons to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, which will test and safely store the weapons until the case is resolved. With 45 percent of domestic violence homicides occurring within 90 days of separation, the program seeks a measure of protection for victims and their families during a vulnerable time period.
“Elected officials at the state and federal level have failed to meet their basic obligation to take meaningful action to protect us from gun violence,” Judge Hidalgo said. “Here in Harris County, we won’t sit idly by and do nothing as this epidemic continues to steal lives all around us. We know county government can be an agent for positive change, working around barriers and unfunded mandates to keep our communities safe. The measures we are announcing today are real, common-sense actions that will save lives and protect some of our most vulnerable residents, including victims of domestic violence and children.”
“While action to address gun violence stalls at the state and federal level, I’m proud of the actions that Harris County is taking at the local level to protect vulnerable members of our community from gun-related domestic violence,” said Commissioner Rodney Ellis. “We must always do what we can to prevent and reduce all forms of gun violence in our communities.”
In addition to the expansion Safe Surrender program, Harris County officials are working together to address gun-related violence through the following initiatives:
– Expedited reporting of disqualifying convictions for firearms ownership: The Harris County District Clerk’s Office will report convictions that disqualify people from owning firearms to the Department of Public Safety within five business days, faster than currently required by law.
– Gun lock distribution: Precinct One Constables are distributing gun locks at community service events.
– Task force: The Harris County Public Health Department has begun a task force on violence and injury prevention.
Harris County officials will return to Commissioners Court with an implementation plan and funding recommendations for the Safe Surrender program by the November 12, 2019 meeting