AUSTIN

Age should not dictate the penalty of a crime. At least, that’s what State Representative John Wray says. That’s why he filed a bill last week that ensures equal justice for victims in a school shooting, according to a media release.

House Bill 1381 is a bill that enhances the criminal penalty for aggravated assault on school property. Under current law, a school shooter can be charged with a first or second-degree felony depending on who the victim is.

If a child 14 or younger or a public servant is the victim, the penalty is a first-degree felony. If, however, the victim is a visitor, non-teacher or staffer, or any other student, the crime is a second-degree felony.

House Bill 1381 expands the penalty to a first-degree felony if, in discharging a firearm, it causes serious bodily injury to any person on a primary or secondary school property, according to the bill.

"It just doesn't make sense that age would determine the penalty applied in this crime against students,” Wray stated in the release. “I want to notify any person who would harm our students that our prosecutors are armed with the best tools available for applying appropriate justice for all students.”

Last January, a 16-year-old male student shot a 15-year-old girl in the cafeteria of Italy High School. Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson found that since the victim was 15 years old, the juvenile could be charged with a second-degree felony at most.

“Had the assailant killed anyone, shot a public servant such as a teacher or shot anyone under the age of 15, he would likely be facing a first-degree felony, which carries a sentence of five to 99 years in a correctional facility,” Wilson stated in a previous story.

But since the victim was 15, the assailant is eligible for a prison sentence anywhere between two to 20 years, according to the Texas penal code.

Wray wanted to change that.

“This bill ensures that the punishment fits the crime,” Wray remarked. “And that one student is not seen any differently than another in one of these heinous, evil events.”

The act takes effect Sept. 1, 2019.