Mayor Sylvester Turner watches as Houston student makes a speech
Micah Gabay, 15, left, Worthing Early College High School sophomore, speaks at the Harris County Gun Buyback announcement with Commissioner Ellis and Mayor Turner listening to her appeal to make schools safer. The gun buyback will be held from 8 a.m. to noon Feb. 18 at Deussen Park, 12303 Sonnier Houston.

Micah Gabay, 15, appeared nervous when she followed Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez at a news conference on Monday announcing a gun buyback event scheduled for Feb. 18 at Deussen Park.

The Worthing Early College High School sophomore – adding a different perspective than a politician or law enforcement officer – offered a profound statement as a student who lives with the fear of mass school shootings.

“A lot of times, some stuff would happen at school and people threaten to shoot (up) the school so we would have to go on lockdown,” said Gabay, standing in front of the “Stop Gun Violence Mural” painted on an outside building at her school. “And  I’m honestly happy that the guns are being taken off the streets so we don’t have to worry as much as we normally would about gun violence happening within the school.”

Since 2009, more people have died in mass shootings in Texas – including at schools in Sante Fe and Uvalde – than any other state, according to a report by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun violence prevention organization. In addition, the gun death rate in Texas has increased nearly 16% since 2010, according to the Johns Hopkins Center’s Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

“Harris County is mobilizing its resources with absolute urgency in a full-court press to reduce gun violence in our communities,” said Commissioner Ellis, whose Precinct One is partnering with the Sheriff’s Office to conduct the buyback. “We may not control gun laws, but we are not powerless to take guns off the street.”

The Feb. 18 event from 8 a.m. to noon at Deussen Park, 12303 Sonnier St., will be the county and the city’s latest efforts to reduce violent crime and make Houston-area communities safer. Residents – with no questions asked – can turn in firearms in exchange for gift cards in the amount of $50, $100, $150 and $200 – depending on the type of gun. The federal American Rescue Plan Act funds the program.

Last year, Commissioner Ellis, in conjunction with the City of Houston, held two gun buybacks that collected 2,000 weapons. Five others are planned after the February buyback.

“Our goal then and now is to keep guns in the hands of responsible owners and to give people who want to get rid of their guns a safe way to do that without keeping them on the streets or at any home where they can fall in the hands of the wrong person,” Mayor Turner said. “We all know there are way too many guns on our streets.”

Sheriff Gonzalez said the gun buyback is one of his office’s efforts to provide “a safe and effective outlet for those who may want to turn in unwanted guns. It may have been perhaps a loved one who passed away and left a cadre of guns in the home and family members don’t know how to discard them. We now provide them that option. And we hope to build on that success of the (Houston) Police Department and the City of Houston.”

Commissioner Ellis said the state’s dangerous gun laws are fueling the crisis and flooding our communities with guns.

“We can’t bring back a life,” Commissioner Ellis said. “But we can buy back a gun and make sure it never falls into the wrong hands or causes harm.”