Weapons sold to kids raise concerns

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - A comment from a frustrated police officer became the jumping-off point for a Local 2 hidden camera investigation.

During a previous story about gang activity at schools, a police officer told Local 2 Investigates how frustrated he was that minors can easily purchase dangerous bladed weapons at flea markets and convenience stores around Houston.

With that comment in mind, Local 2 Investigates went undercover. With his parents' permission, we gave a 16-year-old boy a few bucks, a hidden camera and sent him shopping.

Local 2's investigation began by sending the teen into a north-side flea market where he quickly found a booth selling swords, daggers and knives. A few minutes later, the teen walked out with a double-pronged dagger with a nearly 10-inch-long blade that could easily be concealed in a backpack.

"Did anybody ever ask age your age?" Local 2 investigator Robert Arnold asked.

"No, not at all," Tyler Colbert, the 16-year-old boy, said.

Since the merchant did not seem concerned with the age of his customers, Local 2 sent Colbert back into the flea market to see what other weapons he could buy.

"Right here, is that sword real?" Colbert asked the merchant.

"Yes," the merchant replied.

The merchant then showed Colbert a pair of samurai swords and a large two-handed sword. The merchant even offered Colbert a deal on the two samurai swords.

"For both of them or just one?" Colbert asked.

"Ah, two, seven," the merchant said.

Colbert then walked out of the flea market with both samurai swords and the heavy long sword.

"I got all these for under $60," Colbert told Arnold.

"Did you ever think you could buy it on your own?" Arnold asked.

"No, never," Colbert said. "Usually there's a sign that says '18 or older' or something like that, but it was really easy for me to walk in there and grab them."

If you think daggers and swords are a little grandiose, Local 2 also sent Colbert into a corner convenience store. Without asking a single question, the clerk sold him a knife with a  blade that was just over 2 inches.

"Definitely, it concerns me about my safety and my friends' safety," said Colbert.

Local 2 then took the findings of the investigation to Houston Independent School District Assistant Police Chief Robert Mock.

"When you have these kind of weapons available it makes that job tougher," said Mock.

Mock even examined some of the weapons Colbert was able to purchase.

"It's obvious what the intent is. It's not a prop … it's heavy, it's well made," said Mock, referring to the large sword purchased by Colbert. "Some of the stuff you showed me may not on the surface be illegal, but it's definitely a problem when you bring it to school."

It is a felony if these type of weapons are brought on to a school campus. 

Mock said he's also concerned the students buying these weapons might think it's cool.

"We just need to make sure we educate our students on what is appropriate and what is not appropriate," said Mock.

What about those selling these weapons to kids?

"What you're looking at may take some kind of concerted effort between counties, municipalities and school district police to see how that needs to be addressed,' said Mock. 

Local 2's investigation will continue Friday at 10 p.m. when we examine exactly how many weapons are brought to schools throughout the Houston area.

If you have a news tip or question for KPRC Local 2 Investigates, drop them an e-mail or call their tipline at (713) 223-TIPS (8477). Copyright 2012 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.