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Novelties, Brass Knuckles and Juveniles: What You Need to Know

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Brass knuckles are just one of the weapons that is prohibited in Texas. For that matter, brass or not, the knuckles are prohibited.

Why then do so many students get arrested with them? Kids are getting arrested, rather frequently, in schools with brass knuckles. Of course, the kids aren’t really even sure they are knuckles (well, maybe they are). In an interesting experiment, you can go to any novelty store around town and purchase them. You can find them in flea markets.

But wait, if they are prohibited, how are they being sold to our kids?

“Knuckles” means any instrument that consists of finger rings or guards made of a hard substance and that is designed, made, or adapted for the purpose of inflicting serious bodily injury or death by striking a person with a fist enclosed in the knuckles. Texas Penal Code 46.01(8).

Under Penal Code 46.05, a person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly possesses, manufactures, transports, repairs, or sells knuckles. It is a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and up to a $4,000 fine. Except the offense level and punishment can be increased in certain instances. For example, possessing the knuckles within 300 feet of a school or on the premises of school function increases the offense level to a state jail felony, which carries a punishment of 180 days to 2 years in a state jail facility and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Under Penal Code 46.03, it is a third degree felony punishable by 2 to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine to have the prohibited weapon in certain places: on the physical premises of a school, the grounds or building of a school activity, on a transportation vehicle of a school, on the premises of a polling place on the day of an election or while early voting is in progress, on the premises of a court or court offices, on the premises of a racetrack, in or into a secured area of an airport, or within 1,000 feet of premises designated as a place of execution.

Penal Code provisions apply as stated to adults, currently those age 17 or older. For juveniles (aged 10-17), the penal code offenses apply while the punishment, or more correctly the disposition, is different. The jail or prison time and fines do not apply to juveniles.

So, stores cannot legally sell them. They cannot legally have them. Yet, they are being routinely sold. Stores rely on a “novelty” approach: the knuckles are disguised as belt buckles or other common objects. Yet when the kids show up at school wearing the belt buckle, they are arrested. Their parents inform the school police the item was purchased in a local mall in a novelty store. However, no one does anything about it. I have notified several prosecutors over the years of the exact stores selling these “novelties” and even provided a receipt or two. Yet nothing is done. So why are kids continued to be prosecuted for something adults are illegally selling? If it’s illegal for the kid to have it, it was just as illegal for the store to have it and sell it.

As a parent, I can’t condone the child making the purchase or taking the item to school. At the same time, why do we continue allowing the stores to sell them?

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