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Texas School Marshal Law in question

Editorial by Rich Macke

Texas House Bill 1009 must be reviewed and revised for the safety of those it is intended to protect.

In February of 2013 following the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, Texas State Representative Jason Villalba of District 114 in Dallas filed HB1009. Better known as the “Protection of Texas Children Act”, the bill passed through the Texas Senate with a 28-3 vote in May of the same year. Just two short weeks later on June 4, 2013 HB1009 was signed into law by then Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Per Representative Villalba’s website, the law was meant to create a new subset of law enforcement officer, called School Marshals, who serve as the last line of defense should an armed attacker threaten the lives of children in public schools.

Although well intended, a poorly written portion of the law which lies within Section 3 of the bill could be the difference between life and death to innocent bystanders. An excerpt from that section reads:

“(d) Any written regulations adopted…The written regulations must also require that a handgun carried by or within access of a school marshal may be loaded only with frangible ammunition designed to disintegrate on impact for maximum safety and minimal danger to others.”

So what is frangible ammunition? The bullets used in frangible ammunition are designed to break into very small, and therefore harmless, pieces when they strike a target of sufficient hardness and thickness. They were created to increase the safety of shooting at hardened steel targets.

Frangible projectiles are known to perform very similarly to full metal jacket bullets when impacting humans and most common building materials such as drywall, plywood, doors, windows, etc.

Kenneth Alexander, retired engineer at CCI/Speer has been directly involved in the design, development, manufacturing, testing and establishment of performance standards for most types of handgun bullets, including frangible. He says, “It is the poorest bullet choice for self-defense, law enforcement, or School Marshal use. The stated requirement in the bill ‘to disintegrate on impact’ is ambiguous and particularly inadequate as a quantifiable attribute.”

Alexander goes on to say, “Undoubtedly Texas HB 1009 was drafted and enacted into law with the best of intentions. The reality is however, it may do more harm than good and create the situation of actually increasing the threat of harm to school children or other collateral damage by the use of inappropriate ammunition.”

Most law enforcement personnel agree the first and utmost consideration in any deadly threat situation is to neutralize the threat. All other considerations are moot if the threat remains active, with the ability to harm or murder additional adults or children.

Retired Supervisory Special Agent Buford Boone ran the FBI Ballistic Research Facility in Quantico, VA. for approximately 15 years. He conducted numerous live-fire ballistic demonstrations The FBI uses ballistic gelatin as a tissue simulant. The standard blocks are 16” long. Boone would demonstrate the penetration performance of typical “service” loadings and show scenarios where some may penetrate 20” or more.   The issue of “over penetration” was always discussed, usually with a participant asking, “why don’t we use frangible ammunition”. The answer was provided by another demonstration, shot with the frangible ammunition used in FBI training.

Prior to taking the shot, SSA Boone would place a panel of ballistic material (body armor) behind the second block of gelatin, to catch the projectile for examination. “I can’t recall a shot which failed to penetrate both blocks of gelatin and knock the ballistic panel down,” he said.

Brandon Graves, CEO of Sinterfire, largest manufacturer of frangible bullets in the world also shared his thoughts “The main concern is the lack of education to understand the difference between standard training frangible ammunition and Frangible Duty ammunition. We are a huge proponent of protecting kids in schools and frangible duty ammunition being used by School Marshals. The way the bill is written, a poor understanding by School Marshals between the two projectiles could potentially be fatal to innocent bystanders.”

Graves added, “An amendment to this bill which would add the word, Duty, to describe the accurate frangible ammunition School Marshals can use could change everything”. As this issue is of much importance, if we can get a meeting with Texas legislators on this topic, I will fly out to Texas and share with them facts they need to make this change in HB1009”.

This topic will be the center of a series that will publish over the next few weeks as we investigate the facts around this issue. It is our goal that we can provide a catapult for this much needed change in HB1009 before the error in it’s writing causes the death of a child or other innocent bystanders.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at rich.macke@panews.com