Exhibition of a Firearm

There was an arrest of a North Forney student for exhibition of a firearm today. It’s not a law you see often so let’s talk about it here, and discuss the juvenile process as  well.

First, what is the law on guns in schools?

To the Education Code we go-

TEX ED. CODE ANN. § 37.125

(a) A person commits an offense if, in a manner intended to cause alarm or personal injury to another person or to damage school property, the person intentionally exhibits, uses, or threatens to exhibit or use a firearm:

(1) in or on any property, including a parking lot, parking garage, or other parking area, that is owned by a private or public school; or

(2) on a school bus being used to transport children to or from school-sponsored activities of a private or public school.

(b) An offense under this section is a third degree felony.

The first thing to notice is that you don’t actually have to have a gun to get arrested. The law covers threats to use a gun at a school. That’s why I bolded that part. It’s also covers exhibiting, or threatening to exhibit a gun. Exhibit is a lawyer word for “show people”. So even threatening to waive a gun at a school is a crime. In this case it appears the student threatened to “shoot up a school” which is enough to trigger the working end of this statute. These offenses are all third degree felonies (2-10 TDC).

In the North Forney case the suspect in 15. So he’s going to juvie court. That process begins in Hunt County. Kaufman County does not have a juvenile detention facility so we ship our young defendants to Greenville. If the police want to talk to this suspect, or conduct an interrogation the Miranda process is different. A magistrate must read the warnings to the juvenile outside of the presence of law enforcement. Only then can statements made by a juvenile be used against him. That’s probably happening now.

After that the defendant must have a detention hearing within 3 days. At that hearing a judge will decide if the defendant will be released or not. I’m guessing not in this case. Some of the factors the court will consider are the juvenile’s criminal history, the supervision available at home, the threat to the public etc. Even on minor cases Kaufman County juveniles are often held until a psych evaluation is done. You can expect that in this case as well. Many school shooters around the country were on psychotropic medication.

There is some chance the DA could try and certify this suspect as an adult. To that end a court would look at what options there are to rehabilitate this defendant within the juvenile justice system. Barring a history of prior offenses, that may be difficult.

There are a lot of scared parents in Forney right now. Part of our 2nd Amendment culture is extremely easy access to firearms. I don’t see that changing any time soon. And it’s one reason the law regulates just threatening to use a gun. It implicitly recognizes that the “getting a gun” part is pretty trivial in Texas. So we treat threats with the exact same level of offense as bringing a gun to school.

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