Last week, in the wake of the Navy Yard shooting in Washington DC, we predicted that we’d see another wave of knee jerk overreactions to anyone doing anything with any object that even remotely looks like a gun – sadly we were right.
The latest incident occurred in Virginia, where a seventh grader and his friend have been suspended from school for playing with a toy gun, in the boy’s own front yard, outside of school hours.
WAVY-TV reports that while waiting for the school bus, the boys were fooling around with an airsoft replica handgun, shooting plastic pellets at a target attached to a tree, with a safety net rigged up to catch any off target pellets.
A neighbor saw them and called in a complaint to police. The caller even acknowledged that the gun wasn’t real, telling the 911 dispatcher “This is not a real one, but it makes people uncomfortable. I know that it makes me (uncomfortable), as a mom, to see a boy pointing a gun.”
When the Virginia Beach City Public School System got wind of the incident, the principal of Larkspur Middle School, decided to suspend the two boys, Khalid Caraballo and Aidan Clark, for the next nine months, and even recommended that the boys be “expelled for a year” for possession, handling and use of a firearm.
In a letter, the principal claims that the boys “shot at people near the bus stop,” while their parents and the boys strongly refute the accusation, noting that the gun never left the yard and was left there when the school bus arrived. There are also multiple discrepancies between the principal’s claims and the boys’ account of what happened.
“My son is my private property.” said Khalid’s mother, Solangel Caraballo. “He does not become the school’s property until he goes to the bus stop, gets on the bus, and goes to school.”
“How dare he disobey me,” the mother added, “but this is a home issue. It’s not a school issue and it won’t happen again. He will never do this again.”
While maintaining that he has never taken the toy gun to school, Khalid expressed remorse, noting “It’s terrible. I won’t get the chance to go to a good college. It’s on your school record. The school said I had possession of a firearm. They aren’t going to ask me any questions. They are going to think it was a real gun, and I was trying to hurt someone. They will say ‘oh, we can’t accept you.’”
The city code indicates that it is not a violation to fire such airsoft guns on private property as long as “reasonable care” is exercised, and the fired projectiles are reasonably contained. Police would not comment on the specifics of the case, but said that they do not proactively seek out to enforce the code in such incidents involving pneumatic guns.
Caraballo will attend an alternative school, while the other boy, Clark, will now be homeschooled at the behest of his parents. A hearing will be held in January to determine if they will be allowed back to the Larkspur school.
This is the third incident of its kind in recent days, with a 9-year-old in Michigan being indefinitely suspended for pretending a plastic toy was a gun, and a 15 year old in Louisiana being jailed for “shooting” people using an iPhone app.
Following last year’s Sandy Hook tragedy, we documented a spate of similar incidents involving bubble guns, lego guns and even food bitten into the shape of a gun.
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