Mayor names task force to help prevent gun violence

Less than a week after a gunman killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner named a 37-member group — including some high school and university students — to form a Mayor’s Commission Against Gun Violence.

The group announced Wednesday is made up of students, civil rights activists, parents, law enforcement officials and advocates on both sides of gun control. It has one task: to come up with ways to make schools, parks, neighborhoods and communities safer.

That means coming up with “definitive steps,” Turner said, for action on the local, state and federal level.

“Our schools ought to be as safe as our airports and our governmental buildings,” the mayor said Wednesday. “My charge to this commission is to explore all of the possibilities of what we can do to create a safer environment — for our kids, for adults, for our families — and to reduce, mitigate, the risk of gun violence.”

Among those selected: Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Turner selected Aimee Mobley Turney, a Houston leader in Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, and Haley Carter, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer who played soccer for the Houston Dash.

Turner also named representatives of the Houston Area Urban League, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, plus a gun violence survivor and the family member of a gun violence victim.

Turner said he wants the group to issue its recommendations before the next school year begins.

“That’s what we ought to be focusing on — what will harden the system, make our schools safe when classes resume,” he said. “That’s going to be a critical time table for this group.”

For several days, in fact, Turner has been calling for the state legislature to reconvene immediately and respond to the violence with a special session.

“I think the legislature ought to be meeting now so it can be ready for when school opens in August,” he said; waiting until the next regular session in 2019 will mean delaying change for another school year.

“I’m not interested in making this issue partisan at all,” Turner said. “I’m not interested in engaging in any political battle. … What I am interested in is trying to come up with ideas, recommendations that can make our society safer for all of our children.”