Saturday, January 15, 2005

One Omitted Word

I was watching one of our local television news stations (WSYX6) last night. One of the stories was about a student who took a gun to school with him. Those links don't last very long (or don't point to the same story after a new one is posted) so I have included the text of the website article here:

Gun Found in Middle School Locker
Sheriff's deputies arrived in full force at Pleasant View Middle School in Grove City. Six cruisers lined the bus lanes Friday afternoon. A handgun was found in a locker, and one student taken into custody of the Sheriff's Office.

When the cruisers had gone - so had the 13-year-old accused of bringing a small-caliber, semiautomatic handgun. He had not been accused of anything more than that - and may or may not be formally charged. At that time there was no indication of intimidation of other students. It is still unknown as to why the gun was brought to school. That's something police are trying to find out and something the sheriff's office will investigate. A letter from the principal came out with everything they knew, prior to 3pm.

Legally, the southwest city school district cannot discuss the penalty to this student if he indeed brought the weapon on to school grounds. However - a zero-tolerance policy means the district can suspend him for ten days - with a recommendation for expulsion.

A 'standard' story sure enough. This happens from time to time at different schools. Has been happening for a very long time, even way back when Jack was in High School. However, during the story they flashed the 'letter from the principal' across the screen, and being somewhat of a speed reader - I saw the words 'unloaded gun' in the text of the body of the letter.

It immediately made me wonder why this detail was left out of the story. Surely a single polysyllabic word didn't 'lengthen' the story to make it too long to fit into the news broadcast segment. Something seemed amiss to me, that one word changes the store quite a bit, it was a fact that was left out, not an opinion. Now, don't get Jack wrong, kids shouldn't be taking guns to school, loaded or unloaded. However, leaving out the word 'unloaded' just smelled a little suspicious to me.

Back before Ohio had CCW licenses, it wasn't a felony to carry an unloaded or non-working gun. In fact, even if it were loaded, it had to be shown to be in 'working' condition before you could charge the person with a felony-level CCW charge instead of a misdemeanor (if even a charge at all). We used to send all firearms confiscated during CCW arrests to the range for testing to be sure they worked. Now, if you took out the unloaded firearm and pointed it at someone, it was a different matter, you could be charged with 'Aggravated Menacing', though it was still only a misdemeanor. When you tell a someone that a kid took a gun to school, there is an assumption that it was a loaded firearm in working condition. While again, it does not lessen the degree of concern a parent should have, it does make somewhat of a difference that the firearm wasn't loaded. I might then question the obviously poor judgment of the student, but I'd be then more likely to believe that he just might have brought it only to 'show it off' to some friends (which is probably how he was caught with it). It sure makes a difference to me, and not just a 'slight' one.

So I wrote the station an e-mail through their website feedback submission form, though I doubt I'll get an answer. I asked them if an electronic copy of the letter the principal sent to parents was available, and if not, was I correct in reading that the gun was 'unloaded'. We'll see if I get an answer and what answer I get. I might follow-up with a phone call if I don't.

I'll let you know what happens.