An interesting legal case is playing out in Montana. A 16-year-old honor student, varsity cheerleader and student council member inadvertently brought a deer-hunting rifle onto school property unloaded and secured in the trunk of her car. During the day she realized it was in her trunk in violation of school rules so she voluntarily told school officials she had been hunting that weekend and forgot it was in her trunk.
You would have thought she tried to kill several students as the school rushed to protect the innocent students. The zero-tolerance school expelled her with further punishment to follow. Education officials insisted the gun law had no “wiggle room” – that she must be held to the same standard as someone bringing a firearm onto campus with the intent to commit murder.
First, it was secured unloaded in her trunk; she did not bring it into the school, only the school parking lot. And, actually, the law does have lots of “wiggle room,” but some administrators are phobic about guns, any guns.
This case has people on both sides of the issue “up in arms.” One Montana blog wrote, “The theory that people with malice will be intimidated into good conduct if people without malice are punished in lieu of them is idiocy at its finest.”
This is not about guns or safety. It shows no connection with real gun violence and actually makes schools far less safe. One argument is that “zero tolerance on guns” includes the police except when responding to a call. Otherwise, the police must lock their weapons in the trunk of their police cars. If they want to bring a gun onto a school campus they must call a school administrator at the main office to get permission.
Remember, we are talking about uniform police who are on duty. After the firestorm of protests, the Albuquerque Public Schools were forced to change that policy.
Likewise, in 2008 a communications professor at a Connecticut school sparked controversy by calling the police when a student during a class speech talked about the Second Amendment in speaking about the three dozen people being killed at Virginia Tech University because none of them could shoot back.
The professor called the police because students were “scared and uncomfortable” during the speech. I guess it was really a speech about the First Amendment, eh?
On and on
The list goes on and on. A Colorado high school student on a military drill team was given a 10-day suspension for having a non-functioning drill team rifle in her car in the school parking lot. Many schools and colleges are hostile to the military who are recruiting.
George Orwell wrote, “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” The zero-tolerance policies show an ignorance of what really does make us safe in society. When someone intends murder, a charge of carrying a gun on a school campus is ludicrous at best.
Mexico has some of the most severe gun control laws of any nation and has had almost 30,000 citizens killed in gun violence in the last four years. How is that gun control law working? Only outlaws have guns. Does that make the citizens safer? No.
Now don’t be a donkey and think I am advocating students bringing guns to schools. I completely agree that when students bring weapons to school there is reason for alarm. Rather, I am saying that in the case of someone inadvertently leaving a gun secured in the trunk of their car, it is quite different. In fact, I think that what is in the trunk of a student’s vehicle is like what the student has in their room at home and is constitutionally protected. Again, not to take it out of the trunk.
Attempting to keep uniform officers from bringing weapons onto school property is wrong. Citizens are only safe because the police are trained and prepared to use deadly force. The school’s anti-gun policies are inculcating young minds, giving them the wrong messages about what really does keep them safe… guns in the hands of the police and law-abiding citizens.
P.S. – they did not make permanent the expulsion of the Montana student, and after an emotional meeting Monday they allowed her to return to school. That still leaves the question of the constitutionality of considering a closed and locked vehicle in a parking lot to be different than the constitutional guarantees of a residence. But at least there was a modicum of good thinking.
Or was it that every school leader understood that the school board was set to be swept out of office and then the leadership in the school changed if the student was not quickly reinstated? I believe the community was one bad decision by the school board away from a clean sweep.
Swickard is a weekly columnist for this site. You can reach him at email@example.com.