My first reaction to the story of Brystol-Plymouth students being suspended for posing with air-soft rifles in Taunton, Massachusetts was that the school superintendents don't understand the guarantees the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides to all of us.
|Jamie Pereira and Tito Velez|
I find that argument less than persuasive. Starting with Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District in 1969, the Supreme Court has found that, although not unlimited, students' 1st amendment protected rights don't end at the entrance to the school.
Other cases related to students' 1st amendment protected rights explore issues such as underground newspapers published off-campus but distributed on-campus. These cases have explored just how far school administrators, who are agents of the government, can go in regulating the free-speech rights of students on campus.
This particular case, however, is related to speech that occurred off-campus, in a private home in a public forum. School officials now purport to be able to regulate the speech of students when those students are off-campus and not under supervision of school officials. Furthermore, school officials claim that they can act as sole arbiter and interpreter of just what someone means in their speech and the consequences the speaker faces when stating certain ideas.
The speech occurred off-campus. If there is a real fear that the photo shown above is a threat then the school officials need to relinquish their self-imposed authority and go to the courts and legal system. This is not speech that occurred in a forum for which they have any authority to act.
The students now "understand it was wrong" and their parents have apologized.
I think this points to the true crux of the issue. Rather than being a case about students' first or second amendment protected rights this is about a not-so-subtle indoctrination of an oppressive anti-gun ideology. (Il)liberal politicians and government officials will use whatever power they can claim in order to suppress any pro-gun speech or ideas. The more they can drive the "gun culture" into a corner of apologizing for liking or having guns the more they can achieve their goal of disarmament. The younger they can indoctrinate U.S. citizens with their zero-tolerance policies that include a 5-year old student forced to sign a "no suicide" contract the closer they can get to "reforming" our citizens into believing that guns are evil.
This is not a short-term game for the anti-gunners. They are happy, as were the likes of Mao and Stalin, to use a multi-generational strategy of oppressing our natural rights so that our children's children understand the true religion of government-knows-best.
This should frighten you as much as it frightens me.