Last Modified: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 1:46 PM
Louisiana schools are considered gun-free zones. But does that mean toy gun-free zones, as well? A Haughton lawmaker thinks so.
State Rep. Dodie Horton, R-Haughton, has filed House Bill 43 for the upcoming session that recommends putting students in jail for bringing a fake gun to a public school or school-related event.
The legislation would prohibit “the possession of imitation firearms, projectiles, or ammunition on or within a certain distance of school property or at school-sponsored functions,” according to the bill’s wording.
If the bill passes as presented, first-time offenders could face a $250 fine and up to six months in jail. Repeat offenders would face a $500 fine and up to six months behind bars.
The bill is pending in the House’s Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice, and was added to the interim calendar on March 10.
“My whole intention is to protect a student from being shot because of a stupid action he or she may make, and to protect our deputies from having to shoot a student and live with that their entire life,” Horton told the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Horton’s bill includes air guns, toy guns, water guns and others “substantially similar in coloration and overall appearance to an existing firearm as to lead a reasonable person to perceive that the device is a firearm.”
Proponents of Horton’s legislation, which includes the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, insists the variety of toy guns on the market look so real that students carrying them may be at risk of getting shot by law enforcement.
“These things look real,” said Bossier Parish Sheriff Julian Whittington, who has endorsed the bill.
Manufacturers of toy guns are required to outfit them with orange tips to make it clear they are not real firearms. But it the toys are upside down in a backpack, they can easily be mistaken for real ones.
The legislation would make it against the law for any student to bring imitation guns within 1,000 yards of a school -- and that includes colleges and universities, as well.
Lack of knowledge about the law, should it pass, would also not be a viable defense. Basically, you can’t plead dumb.
Many school districts, such as DeSoto Parish, already have in place bans on bringing imitation guns to school, the penalties just aren’t as steep as Horton’s proposal. In DeSoto, violators receive three-day school suspensions.
Kids should be allowed to have fun. But this is about keeping them safe. We get that. Guns don’t belong in our classrooms, locker rooms, offices, stadiums or school labs. But jail time for young kids with toy guns might be a little steep. Share with us your thoughts.