First Daughter Ashley Biden Speaks at Gun Violence Town Hall on TSU Campus

The hands of about two-thirds of the teens in a Texas Southern University auditorium shot up Saturday afternoon when asked whether they knew someone underage with access to a gun.

First Daughter Ashley Biden, who moderated the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston event, empathized with the recent rise in gun violence against Harris County youth, drawing from her own life and advocacy work experience.

“I lost, personally, 15 students who were near and dear to me to gun violence so this has plagued my life and my community as well as yours,” said Biden, who is a social worker by trade.

Houston advocates have rallied recently surrounding the shooting death of Arlene Álvarez, a 9-year-old who was mistakenly shot and killed by a robbery victim on Valentine’s night. Ashanti Grant, another Houston 9-year-old, is still recovering after being shot in the head during a road rage incident Feb. 8. Darius “DJ” Dugas, 11, was fatally shot Feb. 3 in northeast Harris County and 16-year-old Diamond Alvarez was killed in January.

Saturday’s panel included U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, HISD Superintendent Millard House II, Houston Police Department Assistant Chief Yasar Bashir, Harris County Juvenile Probation Deputy Director Henry Gonzales, and Howard Henderson of TSU’s Center for Justice Research.

Teens involved in organizing the project were able to connect virtually with the first daughter in the months leading up to the event, according to Kevin Hattery, president and CEO Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Houston. Gun violence and safety was chosen as the topic for Saturday’s capstone town hall. Panelists also discussed suicide prevention, guns in school and House Bill 1927, which allows most adults in Texas to carry weapons without a license or fee.

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