STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
MARBLE FALLS — Wearing a ballistics helmet could mean the difference between life and death during a violent incident in which officers are in the crossfire.
The two active shooter events that occurred in Florida since 2016 magnified how violent and dangerous such a scenario could be for those who are unprotected.
On Feb. 14, during the most recent shooting, 15 students and two educators in Parkland were killed when an expelled student opened fire in a high school.
In June 2016, nearly 50 people were killed by a gunman at a nightclub, but as gunfire broke out between the gunman and police, at least one officer wearing a ballistics helmet survived a gunshot to the head, prompting agencies across the country to beef up their equipment.
“Police officers are being called to more dangerous situations,” Granite Shoals Police Chief Gary Boshears said. “Even small communities, such as our city, and surrounding cities could have a similar event at any time.”
To give their first responders a fighting chance if called to a violent scene, the agency used a $2,880 grant, awarded by Burnet County Friends of NRA, to purchase ballistic helmets for officers.
“Our officers have more protection to help them survive in a violent encounter so we can remain focused on saving lives and reducing the risk of injury or death,” Boshears said.
To continue offering such financial assistance to local law enforcement, the nonprofit Friends group is hosting a fundraising event for the public.
The Burnet County Friends of NRA Banquet is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at Lakeside Pavilion in Marble Falls.
“We’ve had great participation year after year,” Friends chairman Mark McDonald said. “The people are starting to understand what the program actually does.”
For 2018 grant requests, the Burnet County nonprofit foundation has received six applications from local law enforcement as well as three more youth 4-H shooting teams for awards that will range from several hundred to several thousand dollars each.
“Fifty percent of all money raised comes back to the community in the form of grants for law enforcement and shooting sports,” McDonald said.
The awardees will be announced at the upcoming NRA event, featuring live and silent auctions, firearm giveaways, raffles, and prizes as well as a ribeye steak dinner for at least 300 attendees.
The Wall of Guns raffle lets participants purchase cards from a playing deck for $20 each and spin to win firearms.
“The winner picks a firearm off the wall,” McDonald said. “It’s probably the most popular feature.”
Granite Shoals authorities said they’re scheduled to attend. For the third year in a row, they are among the grant applicants.
Along with the ballistic helmets two years ago, they purchased firearms with NRA grant money in 2017.
“Among items requested (this year) are some optics for our patrol rifles and some other miscellaneous tactical equipment,” Boshears said. “It’s really beneficial because we can get additional equipment for our officers that we may not be able to budget or it’s something we didn’t budget but we needed.”
Tickets are $60 per person with sponsorship tables available for $600 and $1,500.
To find out more or buy tickets in advance, go to friendsofnra.org or visit Rods Barrels, & Strings, 1300 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls.
“The money goes to great causes,” McDonald said.