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Column

Laws are clear  on guns, schools

On Nov. 2, I was talking with a friend who asked me if I had seen the Ledger-Transcript that Thursday. They were “outraged” that the ConVal School Board was having a hearing Friday evening regarding the high school student who had been suspended for bringing a gun to school. It seemed obvious to this friend that the student warranted a full-year expulsion, according to a previous Ledger-Transcript article.

I quickly pulled out my smartphone, and looked up the New Hampshire Department of Education rules and the corresponding NH statutes, regarding “gun-free” school zones. As I read the laws and regulations, I was able to assuage her irritation, telling her that the School Board hearing was a legal formality, according to what I read. And the laws are crystal clear: a 12 (twelve)-month expulsion by a school’s superintendent is mandatory for such a violation (some may say “crime”), both at the state and federal level (the laws do give some flexibility in the length of the expulsion term, on a case-by-case basis, to a school superintendent, apparently allowing for a Title I disabled student’s mental capacity to be taken into account).

I am adamant about citizens being responsible and knowledgeable of the laws that their representatives, at all levels of government, legislate on their behalf.

All of the above, is a long-winded explanation for my own ‘outrage’ at the article I read by Bonnie Harris, entitled “Did we dodge a bullet, or load a weapon?” Ms. Harris “pleads” with the ConVal School Board, to “change” how they “chose” to punish a student who violates the law. If you are a well-informed citizen, then you would know that the consequences of violating these laws is not up to the discretion of our School Board nor can the Board change the law. Only the state and federal legislatures can do that.

If Ms. Harris wants the “punishment” of children who violate state and federal laws changed, rather than using her newspaper column as a platform to “plead” with those who do not have the legal authority to do so, I would encourage her to speak with her state senator and representatives. This would be a more “productive” use of her public influence, rather than the opinions she espouses to the public in her weekly columns. Or, better yet, Ms. Harris can contact Representative Kuster and urge her to support H.R. 35 (the “Safe Schools Act of 2013) and H.R. 133 (the “Citizens Protection Act of 2013”), both of which are still in committee. Each one of these House bills would repeal the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 (and its amendments).

“Citizenship is a tough occupation which obliges the citizen to make his own informed opinion and stand by it.” — Martha Gellhorn.

Teresa Cadorette lives in Peterborough.

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