Although I grew up hunting, I don’t own a gun. In fact, unless you count the .22 rifle and 20-gauge shotgun I used as a teenager that were still in my dad’s gun cabinet when he died, I haven’t owned a gun for at least 30 years. That said, the news that a Washington High School student was expelled for a year because a gun was in the trunk of his car brought home how life on the Great Plains has changed in that time.
Even though the state law banning firearms on school property was first enacted in 1961, I don’t recall it being enforced in the dark ages when I was in high school (1970-74). During hunting season, there were a number of pickups in the parking lot with shotguns in gun racks in the rear window. There were probably as many or more in trunks. Some classmates used their senior privilege of leaving school for lunch to run out and hunt a few pheasants over the noon hour. Even more kids would head out after school to do a bit of hunting before the sun went down. As far as I recall, no one was arrested or disciplined, no one’s shotgun was ever stolen and I know no one ever got shot on school grounds.
Today, though, we have a 17-year-old tossed from school for a year because a shotgun was in the trunk of his car, even though it was unloaded and there was no ammunition in the car. While I’ve seen other reports indicating the gun was in the backseat or on the floor by the backseat, this is still a long, long, long way from when I grew up.
You can’t blame the Sioux Falls School District, though. State law requires expulsion for not less than 12 months, subject to a superintendent’s ability to reduce or extend it on case-by-case basis. Federal law also bans firearms in school zones. And it’s hard to blame Congress or the state Legislature when you consider Columbine and the all too many high school shootings in the last decade. While some may question a strict “no tolerance” policy, that may be the only solution given who is to blame for bringing us to this point — modern American society.
We put our kids to fifteen years of quick-cut advertising, passive television watching, and sadistic video games, and we expect to see emerge a new generation of calm, compassionate, and engaged human beings?
Sidney Poitier, The Measure of a Man